Legislation Passed by Pennsylvania's General Assembly 2013-2014
Child Protective Service Law ReformSenate Bills 27 and 46 – and Act 117 of 2013, Act 33 of 2014, Act 118 of 2013, Act 123 of 2013, Act 119 of 2013, Act 29 of 2014, Act 120 of 2013, Act 44 of 2014, Act 4 of 2014, Act 34 of 2014
House Bills 435 and 2063 – and Act 108 of 2013, Act 32 of 2014, Act 107 of 2013, Act 31 of 2014, Act 28 of 2014, Act 27 of 2014
In December of 2013, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed several laws that reform the way child abuse is defined, investigated and punished. Some of these changes were effective January 1, 2014, but most do not take effect until December 31, 2014. Throughout the legislative process, PCADV worked hard to minimize potential unintended consequences for victims of domestic violence and their children. PCADV successfully advocated for several critical amendments to proposed legislation:
- To be considered child abuse, an act or failure to act must be committed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.
- Bystander children (under 18) and relatives that do not live with the child cannot be held liable for failing to act.
- Only mandated reporters can be charged with failure to report child abuse.
- Before a report can be “indicated” and placed on the registry, it must be reviewed by the local children and youth agency administrator (or designee) and solicitor.
- The time frame to appeal an indicated report is increased from 45 to 90 days.
- PCADV will continue to monitor unfinished pieces of legislation as the legislature seeks to amend the law to address background checks, information sharing for medical reports, and misconduct by school employees.
Sexual Violence and Intimidation Orders
Senate Bill 681 (Act 25 of 2014) – Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)
PCADV Position: Support
Senate Bill 681, which offers victims of sexual assault court-ordered protection from the perpetrator and sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf was signed into law on March 21, 2014. The bill was drafted with the support of PCADV and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. SB 681 allows a victim of sexual assault to acquire a “Sexual Violence Protection Order” that offers relief similar to that available from a Protection from Abuse order. It also creates an opportunity for minors who are victims of harassment and stalking by an adult to seek protection under an “Intimidation Order.” In addition to the District of Columbia, 26 states have passed laws providing protection orders for sexual assault victims. The law takes effect July 1, 2015.
Unlawful Dissemination of an Intimate Image (A.K.A. Revenge Porn)
House Bill 2107 (Act 115 of 2014) – Representative Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery)
PCADV Position: Support
House Bill 2107 sponsored by Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery) makes it a crime to disseminate an intimate image of a current or former sexual or intimate partner. This new phenomena—which many refer to as "revenge porn"—will effectively be a crime on September 7, 2014, after the bill was signed by the Governor on July 9, 2014. PCADV successfully advocated for the Senate Judiciary Committee to strengthen the penalties in HB 2107 in order to reflect what was originally included in Senate Bill 1167 (Intimate Partner Harassment) sponsored by Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks). The bill was also amended to remove the requirement that there be intent to “cause emotional distress to the person depicted” and instead require intent to “harass, annoy or alarm the person depicted.” This change will make the new law easier to prosecute.
Senate Bill 75 (Act 105 of 2014) – Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)
PCADV Position: Support
PCADV has been a member of the Pennsylvania Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Work Group pushing for the passage of Senate Bill 75 sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery). This comprehensive bill was drafted as a result of the Pennsylvania report on human trafficking compiled by the Joint State Government Commission. SB 75 strengthens protections for victims of human trafficking and strengthens state resources to fight this form of modern day slavery. The bill was signed by the Governor on July 2, 2014, and will take effect on September 2, 2014.
Safe and Affordable Housing
House Bill 1796 (Act 200 of 2014) – Representative Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery)
PCADV Position: Support PN 2870, Oppose PN 3107
House Bill 1796, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery), prohibits local nuisance ordinances from penalizing tenants for calling police to respond to domestic violence and other emergencies. On March 11, 2014, HB 1796 was amended in the Senate Local Government Committee with language that preempts local governments from requiring employers to offer paid or unpaid leave, including to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Leave from employment is often critical to a victim’s survival in both the short- and long-term. For these reasons, PCADV opposed the PN 3107 version of the bill and advocated for the Senate to revert to prior PN 2870. On October 15, the Senate reverted to prior PN 2870, removing the problematic employment leave language with a vote of 26 to 22.. The bill then received a unanimous vote of support by the Senate and was signed by the Governor on October 31, 2014. The bill will take effect 90 days after October 31, 2014.
House Bill 1714 (Act 167 of 2014) – Representative Scott Petri (R-Bucks)
PCADV Position: Oppose
Many victims of domestic violence must flee their home without warning--to shelters, family members or some for hospitalization as a result of their abuse--in order to seek safety. House Bill 1714 sponsored by Rep. Scott Petri (R-Bucks) removes the protection a formal eviction requirement provides for tenants by allowing a landlord to dispose of a tenant's property without court intervention, oversight or supervision. Through PCADV’s advocacy an amendment was adopted in House Urban Affairs Committee to extend the time a victim with a PFA has to retrieve her or his belongings. However, this amendment is inadequate to address the problem the overall bill creates by granting the landlord unbalanced authority to dispose of a tenant’s property without due process. HB 1714 eventually passed the Senate with amendments allowing for treble damages if a landlord wrongfully disposes of a tenant’s property. The Governor approved the bill on October 22, 2014, and the law will take effect 60 days after that date.
Utilities and Telecommunications
House Bill 939 (Act 155 of 2014) – Representative Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery)
PCADV Position: Amend
The domestic violence exemption in Chapter 14 (66 Pa. C.S. § 1417) entitles victims with a Protection From Abuse Order to special billing and termination procedures, including: no liability for debts and arrearages accrued by the abuser; flexibility to make up-front payment of arrearages and/or security deposits; additional payment agreements and/or longer repayment period for arrearages; and an increased notice prior to termination. PCADV advocated to amend House Bill 939, sponsored by Rep. Bob Godshall (R-Montgomery) to expand these alternative billing and termination procedures to be accessible to victims of domestic violence that have a court order—such as a custody order or criminal protective order—a medical report, or police report providing evidence of domestic violence against the applicant. The bill was amended in Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee to allow for court orders that provide clear evidence of domestic violence to qualify an applicant for special billing procedures. This expands the qualifying orders from only Protection From Abuse Orders. The Governor signed the bill on October 22, 2014, and the law takes effect 60 days after that date.
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