House Republican leadership and long-time victim advocate Delozier announce efforts to put victims first
HARRISBURG - The House this month will focus its efforts on better protections for victims of crime and abuse, House leaders announced today.
“The House continues to put victims and survivors at the forefront to ensure public safety and provide support to victims of crime, abuse and harassment. As a result, we are declaring April ‘Victim Protection Month’ in the House of Representatives. While any crime is a war against all the people, the victims of those violent and sexual crimes must be foremost in our minds,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “Whether they are victims in our communities or survivors in the workplace, their voices must be heard, their rights protected and their interests preserved.”
Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) agreed. “Just as those accused of a crime have certain rights, we need to ensure our most vulnerable crime victims have equal status throughout the entire criminal justice process. The House Republican Caucus has proactively advanced legislation to enhance public safety and provide support to victims of crime. We will continue to carefully review our current laws, programs and services to ensure we have proactive laws and policies that support crime victims and their families while keeping all our communities safe.”
“To help further protect children in the Commonwealth, the House plans to take up several bills aimed at helping those most vulnerable among us, our children,” Policy Committee Chairman Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest) said. “Making sure our kids are protected and those who would harm them held accountable is one of the continuing priorities of our members.”
The bills to help better protect the lives and welfare of children include:
• House Bill 279
, sponsored by Rep. Karen Boback (R-Luzerne/Lackawanna/Wyoming), would provide civil immunity for any damage that may be done to a vehicle when forceful entry is necessary to rescue a child. The immunity would only apply when the person acts reasonably under certain circumstances.
• House Bill 288
, sponsored by Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Montgomery/Northampton) and known as Caylee’s Law, would increase the penalty for concealing the death of a child from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to seven years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $15,000.
• House Bill 315
, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery/Philadelphia), would establish the offense of female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. The procedure is almost always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The World Health Organization estimates that 140 million women and children worldwide have been affected by female genital cutting.
• House Bill 97
, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Crawford/Forest), would make it illegal to sell minors “electronic nicotine delivery systems,” better known as vaping products. The legislation would also make it illegal for students to use these products on school grounds. This will help curb nicotine use by treating all nicotine products the same. (Passed the House March 26 by unanimous vote, awaiting Senate action.)
To better protect crime victims from abuse and violence by helping those who are victimized to testify against and confront their abusers, bills to be considered include:
• House Bill 276
, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland), is a joint resolution, known as Marsy’s Law and would add a victim’s bill of rights to the Pennsylvania Constitution.
• House Bill 502
, sponsored by Rep. John Hershey (R-Franklin/Juniata/Mifflin), would ensure victims can attend proceedings against their abusers.
• House Bill 503
, sponsored by Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming/Union), would help victims and witnesses with intellectual disabilities or autism to submit out-of-court statements rather than face their perpetrators in court.
• House Bill 504
, sponsored by Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington), would shield rape victims from irrelevant cross examination by ensuring that prior sexual assaults or other prior acts of victimization against a rape victim cannot be used at trial for the purpose of attacking the victim’s character.
• House Bill 505
, sponsored by Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin), would expand the types of crimes in which out-of-court statements by child victims or child witnesses could be admitted by the court, avoiding further trauma for the affected children.
• House Bill 755
, sponsored by Rep. Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery), would expand resources for employers and employees in the prevention of and response to workplace sexual harassment. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) would be charged with developing model sexual harassment policies, as well as providing sample training programs for workplace implementation. In addition to these resources, the bill would require the PHRC to establish a hotline for the purpose of reporting sexual harassment and to assist employers and employees in gathering information and materials related to sexual harassment. This bipartisan bill has been co-sponsored with Rep. Joanna E. McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware), Rep. Sheryl M. Delozier (R-Cumberland) and Rep. Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia).
• House Bill 975
, sponsored by Oberlander, would prohibit the Commonwealth from using taxpayer dollars to compensate—on behalf of and protection of an assailant who works for the Commonwealth—a victim of sexual assault. This legislation would NOT prevent a victim of sexual assault from bringing action against the Commonwealth for damages, if the Commonwealth employs a victim of sexual harassment or assault, the incident allegedly occurred in the workplace, and the Commonwealth entity allegedly knew about the incident and allegedly failed to act to prevent future incidents.
• House Bill 854
, sponsored by Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland), would treat strangulation as a major offense to help protect against domestic abuse and sexual violence.
• House Bill 991
, sponsored by Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks), would require pension forfeiture for sexual offenses committed by public officials and employees.
• A two-bill package known as The Pennsylvania Hidden Predator Act:
o House Bill 963
, sponsored by Rep. Jim Gregory (R-Blair), would amend the state Constitution’s provisions regarding the statute of limitations. Specifically, the bill proposes to amend Section 11 of Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution (known as the “Remedies Clause”) providing a two-year window for anyone for whom a statutory limitations period has expired to commence action arising from childhood sexual abuse.
o House Bill 962
, sponsored by Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks), would also address the state’s statute of limitations law by amending the crimes code to provide a prospective extension of the statute of limitations for commencing a civil action arising from childhood sexual abuse, eliminating the statute of limitations for criminal offenses of childhood sexual abuse, and waiving the defense of sovereign immunity in childhood sexual abuse claims for damages caused by actions or omissions constituting negligence.
Caucus Chairman Toepel said, “Sexual harassment is wrong and must be stopped. No one should ever be uncomfortable going to work. We have strengthened our own House policies, but there is more to do to assist employers and employees in developing effective policies and training with the goal of preventing these destructive actions.”
Delozier said, “As a long-time victims’ advocate, both through my volunteer work in the community and as the author of various pieces of legislation, I understand the anger, frustration and fear victims and survivors face – and we owe it to them to remove barriers, open the courthouse doors, and make sure the most appropriate and effective safeguards are in place.”
Representative Bryan Cutler
100th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Mike Straub