Senate News Brief

“Athletics are a wonderful way for students to learn important teamwork skills and to have fun. Parents have a right to feel secure in knowing that their children are safe when participating in sports and that child predators are not able to use athletics as a way to harm children.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) on passage of legislation targeting athletic coaches, trainers or other sports officials who sexually assault a child-athlete.


Senate Convenes Monday at 1 p.m.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre), meets to consider several bills, including Senate Bill 324, sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), reducing the size of the General Assembly, and House Bill 790, liquor sales reform. (Mon., Off the Floor)

The Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), will hold a public hearing on vehicle accident emergency response by State Police, PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission. (Tues., 9 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), will hold a public hearing on an amendment to Senate Bill 1182, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon). (Tues., 10 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, chaired by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill), will hold a public hearing on the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund. (Wed., 9:30 a.m., N. Office Bldg., Room 1)

Senate Committee Schedule
Hearings will be streamed live at


Senate Passes Legislation to Further Protect Children

The Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to further protect Pennsylvania children from sexual abuse and impose a mandatory minimum sentence for murder of a child.

House Bill 112 was passed by the full Senate by a vote of 45 to 1. The amended bill was sent back to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

The legislation would establish specific guidelines to punish athletic coaches, trainers or other sports officials who sexually assault a child-athlete. The bill also creates the offense of “sexual assault by a sports official,” which would be graded as a third-degree felony. The crime of Sexual Assault by Sports Official is modeled after the Institutional Sexual Assault statute, which covers youth detention center employees.

For more on House Bill 112 and legislation enacted to protect children, please see In the Spotlight and Fast Facts, below.

Senate Passes McIlhinney Bill to Improve Construction Code Review

The Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would improve the review process for potential changes to the state’s Uniform Construction Code.

Every three years, the International Code Council (ICC) offers hundreds of recommendations to government agencies for prospective improvements to construction codes. The Review and Advisory Council (RAC) in the Department of Labor and Industry is responsible for reviewing ICC recommendations.

Senate Bill 1023, sponsored by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), would increase the amount of time the RAC is given to submit a report to the Secretary of Labor and Industry from 12 months to 24 months after the publication of the latest ICC recommendations. The bill would also increase membership on the council to include an architect or engineer with expertise in energy efficiency. Senate Bill 1023 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator McIlhinney: “In 2009, the ICC offered hundreds of suggested changes to the Uniform Construction Code, and every one of them was approved by RAC. In 2012, the ICC again offered hundreds of suggestions, and the RAC voted against every one of them. It is highly unlikely that every change suggested in 2009 was a good idea, but every suggestion offered in 2012 was a bad idea. Increasing the amount of time available to analyze the ICC’s recommendations will lead to a better and more thorough review process.”

Hearing Explores Status, Future of Pennsylvania Gaming

The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee , chaired by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), discussed the status of gaming in Pennsylvania and the potential for growth during a public hearing Tuesday.

The hearing included an overview of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report titled “The Current Condition and Future Viability of Casino Gaming in Pennsylvania,” and touched on a range of issues including the potential impact of new revenue sources such as iGaming, nongaming amenities and the regulatory landscape.
Hearing Video & Testimony

In the Spotlight

In addition to increasing penalties for crimes against child-athletes, House Bill 112 includes an amendment sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) to set a minimum of 15 years in prison for murder of a child who is under the age of 13.

Scarnati noted that mandatory minimum sentences are not always appropriate in Pennsylvania’s judicial system, however, it is needed in this instance as there is currently no mandatory minimum sentence for someone convicted of a third-degree murder of a child.

Senator Scarnati: “It has become apparent that our Commonwealth must do more to make certain that child murderers are not given lenient sentences. Sentences like the recent and appalling decision of only 6-to-12 years in prison handed down by Philadelphia Judge Benjamin Lerner to an individual who was convicted of murdering multiple newborn babies while employed at Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic cannot continue.”

Fast Facts

New Child Protection Laws Enacted 2013-14

  • Act 105 of 2013 directs the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to provide for a sentencing enhancement for child pornography, based upon the age of the child victimized, the number of images possessed, and the nature and character of the abuse.
  • Act 107 of 2013 requires the court, in a custody proceeding, to consider factors related to child abuse and involvement with child protective services.
  • Act 108 of 2013 amends the definitions of “child abuse” and related terms in the Child Protective Services Law.
  • Act 109 of 2013 provides that a person who is under 18 years of age when they are victims of physical or sexual abuse may have his or her name withheld from the public domain even if the person is an adult at the time of prosecution.
  • Act 116 of 2013 makes luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure a second-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, up from a first-degree misdemeanor and five years.
  • Act 117 of 2013 (Baker) updates the definition of “perpetrator” and expands the definition of “person responsible for a child’s welfare.”
  • Act 118 of 2013 (Browne) lowers the age of a perpetrator for simple assault from 21 to 18, expands the definition of aggravated assault, and creates the new offenses of “intimidation or retaliation in child abuse cases” and “false reports of child abuse” to help further protect the victims, witnesses and reporters of child abuse.
  • Act 119 of 2013 (Erickson) establishes accountability and due process protections for individuals working with delinquent children, and provides for penalties for making false reports of child abuse.
  • Act 120 of 2013 (Smucker) establishes a comprehensive system for professional educators who are investigated and disciplined for misconduct in Pennsylvania.
  • Act 123 of 2013 provides for multidisciplinary investigative teams to coordinate child-abuse investigations between county agencies and law enforcement.
  • Act 4 of 2014 (Vance) requires health care providers to immediately report if a newborn is identified as being affected by prenatal exposure to illegal substances.
  • Act 27 of 2014 funds Child Advocacy Centers with unused money in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) vehicle license plate fund.
  • Act 28 of 2014 provides for Child Advocacy Centers and creates a grant program to fund those agencies.
  • Act 29 of 2014 (Vulakovich) requires the Department of Public Welfare to establish a secure, statewide database to include reports of child abuse and children in need of protective services.
  • Act 31 of 2014 requires licensing boards to ensure that mandated reporters receive child abuse recognition and reporting training.
  • Act 33 of 2014 (Ward) makes critical improvements to the list of individuals who are required to report child abuse.
  • Act 34 of 2014 (Mensch) provides employee whistleblower protection for anyone who properly and in good faith reports suspected child abuse