Harrisburg Happenings

A report on the Legislative Session Week of September 30, 2013

Senate approves child protection measures

The Senate approved a series of bills to provide sweeping improvements to Pennsylvania’s child protection laws on Wednesday:

Senate Bill 21 clarifies who is a “mandatory reporter” of child abuse.

Senate Bill 22 increases penalties for failure to report child abuse.

Senate Bill 23 updates the definition of “perpetrator” and expands definition of “person responsible for a child’s welfare.”

Senate Bill 27 improves the exchange of information among medical practitioners and county agencies.

Senate Bill 30 establishes accountability and due process protections for individuals working with delinquent children in juvenile detention facilities and residential rehabilitative institutions.

Senate Bill 33 provides employee whistleblower protection for child abuse reporting.

The bills are part of a bipartisan package of legislation introduced following the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, created by the passage of Senate Resolution 250 in December 2011. The panel held a series of public meetings and released its report in November 2012.

The measures now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 Rural Community College Initiative studied by Education Committee

A proposal to increase post-secondary educational opportunities in underserved counties across the Commonwealth received an in-depth review by the Senate Education Committee at a public hearing on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1000, which creates a Rural Community College Initiative, is based largely on recommendations by a Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) study completed in December 2011. The LBFC study concluded that there is a significant need for public community college programs in rural Pennsylvania. According to the report, by 2018 most jobs will require post-secondary education training, however 25 of the 26 rural counties in Pennsylvania have no community college programs.

Testifiers at the hearing included the North Central Workforce Investment Board, American Refining Group Inc., Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Rural Community College Alliance.

More information and video of the hearing are available at https://education.pasenategop.com/.

 Committee approves child abuse measures

The Senate Communications and Technology Committee approved two bills Wednesday intended to improve the Commonwealth’s ability to respond to suspected child abuse cases.

Senate Bill 24 establishes a statewide database for protective services. The database will include reports of child abuse and children in need of general protective services.  Reports include information relating to the subject of the report, the nature of the occurrence, information on the family, services provided, legal actions initiated, and other details required by the Department of Public Welfare.

Senate Bill 26 directs the Department of Public Welfare to establish a three-digit toll-free number, which would be monitored twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to provide all Pennsylvanians with an easy way of reporting suspected child abuse.

The bills are based on recommendations made by the Task Force on Child Protection established by SR 250 and now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Click here for video of the hearing.

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