PARSOL is currently closely following a variety of legislation in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. This page summarizes the bills we are tracking.
We are in favor of these bills as introduced. Bills may change as they move through the legislative process and may have amendments attached to them after initial introduction.
SB 354 Dating and Sexual Violence Prevention Education (Sponsor: Senator Judith L. SCHWANK)
Co-Sponsors: HUGHES, KEARNEY, STREET, FONTANA, COLLETT, TARTAGLIONE, SANTARSIERO, BOSCOLA, BREWSTER, COSTA, KANE AND MUTH
View Senate Bill 354
Summary from Senator SCHWANK:
My proposal would require schools to establish specific policies regarding dating violence, including reporting procedures for students, parents, legal guardians, or third parties; disciplinary procedures and penalties for students perpetrating dating violence against other students; and information regarding the Protection from Abuse law. Additionally, schools and districts would be required to post these policies on the school or district website, in every classroom where practical, and in at least one prominent location within a school. Existing training requirements on dating violence would be expanded to include middle-school students; components that are now optional; and all teachers, coaches, and school- or district-designated employees. Finally, the bill would also require that post-secondary schools include in currently mandated sexual violence awareness programs information on how to obtain Protection from Abuse orders.
Current Status: Referred to the Senate Education Committee
HB 736 Age Appropriate Curriculum on Child Sexual Abuse (Sponsor: Rep. Mary Jo DALEY)
Co-Sponsors: FRANKEL, STURLA, SCHLOSSBERG, HANBIDGE, SANCHEZ, HILL-EVANS, HOWARD, T. DAVIS, FREEMAN, WEBSTER, HOHENSTEIN, DRISCOLL, KINSEY, McNEILL, ISAACSON, GUENST, SOLOMON, SHUSTERMAN, LEE, ROZZI AND KINKEAD
View House Bill 736
Summary from Representative DALEY:
Jenna Quinn, a survivor of child sexual abuse, has been sharing her story and using it to promote the need for schools to adopt an age-appropriate curriculum on child sexual abuse – resulting in the 2009 passage of “Jenna’s Law” in Texas, which requires school districts to educate students, teachers and parents on the signs of child sexual abuse. Since then, thirty states have enacted laws modeled after this legislation.
After a discussion with Ms. Quinn on these issues, it became clear to me that Pennsylvania needs to adopt similar legislation to protect our children and promote awareness in our schools. By better educating them on signs of child sexual abuse, we can provide our children with tools and knowledge to help them avoid becoming victims. At the same time, this legislation would promote age appropriate dialogue on child sexual abuse in schools so that victims are in an environment where they feel comfortable coming forward to their parents or another trusted adult.
Current Status: Referred to House Education Committee
HB 1381 Sex Work Decriminalization (Sponsors: Rep. Summer LEE & Rep. Jake WHEATLEY)
Co-Sponsors: FRANKEL, RABB, KRAJEWSKI, ISAACSON, SIMS, HOHENSTEIN, MADDEN, KINKEAD AND INNAMORATO
View House Bill 1381
Summary from Rep. LEE:
The criminalization of sex work compromises sex workers’ health and safety by driving sex work underground. This makes it much harder for sex workers to negotiate terms with clients, work together for safety, and carry condoms or other sexual health products without fear that they could be used as evidence of prostitution if arrested. While numerous states have tried to help sex workers by criminalizing the purchase of sex work, the stigma and fear of legal repercussions remain for actual sex workers themselves.
My bill aims to further protect sex workers by decriminalizing prostitution for adults. By taking the stigma and fear of arrest away, I believe that sex workers will feel more empowered and be willing to come forward if they have been victims of sexual violence, trafficking, or need medical assistance due to their line of work.
We can no longer ignore the fact that sex work is work, however stigmatized – sex workers deserve the same protections as other workers. As legislators, it is our duty to serve all of our constituents to the best of our ability, regardless of which profession they are in.
Current Status: Referred to House Judiciary Committee
HB 1835 Eliminating Recidivism Penalties for Non-Violent Crimes of Prostitution (Sponsor: Rep Joanna MCCLINTON)
Co-Sponsors: TOOHIL, HILL-EVANS, KINSEY, SANCHEZ, N. NELSON, KENYATTA, ISAACSON, ZABEL, A. BROWN, HARRIS, MADDEN, PARKER, HOHENSTEIN, GUZMAN, SCHLOSSBERG, HOWARD, SIMS, WARREN AND FRANKEL
View House Bill 1835
Summary from Rep. McCLINTON:
With the passage of Act 105 in September 2014, Pennsylvania finally began to recognize people criminally charged with the non-violent crime of prostitution as who they truly are – victims of sex trafficking. However, the crime of prostitution under Pennsylvania law still carries draconian recidivist provisions. For example, a third prostitution offense becomes a misdemeanor of the second degree, and a fourth prostitution offense becomes a misdemeanor of the first degree – punishable with up five years of incarceration.
In the near future, we will be introducing legislation to remove the current recidivist penalties for prostitution. It is important to note, however, that prostitution will remain a criminal offense with the current penalty of a misdemeanor of the third degree under our proposal. In addition, our legislation strengthens language already in state law to go after the real criminals – those who promote prostitution and those who buy sex. These are the true criminals in this process, and they should be punished as such.
At one time, many believed that a woman freely chose to enter into “the life” of prostitution, and consequently, might be deterred from re-entering “the life” at the prospect of harsher punishment. However, recent studies have shown that this view is largely archaic and unfounded. The reality is that most women do not sell sex by choice, but rather as a means of survival. Many of these women are engaged in prostitution because they ran away from abusive homes as children, lived on the streets, and remain uneducated, jobless, and homeless. These women deserve access to programs and services, not archaic punishments.
Please take a moment and consider the financial cost of incarcerating these victims for repeat offenses. According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC), at least 914 individuals, mainly women, were imprisoned state-wide for repeat prostitution charges from 2010 through 2015. The astronomical financial cost to imprison women with prostitution convictions presents a compelling reason to abolish recidivist provisions for prostitution. For example, in 2014, the City of Philadelphia imprisoned 127 people for repeat prostitution charges and spent $115 daily per inmate. Based on this statistic, the city spent $14,605 daily or $5,330,825 a year incarcerating mostly non-violent women who most often engage in the sex trade out of desperation or abuse. If even a portion of these resources were spent on programs to assist these women in exiting prostitution, the financial gains would be tremendous.
The solution to this inequality and the economic waste of resources is to eliminate the recidivism provisions for prostitution. Our legislation will ensure that individuals will only be charged with a misdemeanor of the third degree, regardless of any prior prostitution convictions. Pennsylvania is behind 37 other states with lesser penalties for prostitution convictions and is one of three states with the harshest maximum penalties.
It is obvious our system is failing these women in getting them the help they need and deserve. It is time for our Commonwealth to catch up with the many states that have already recognized prostitution for what it truly is – sexual exploitation. The first step towards this recognition is abolishing unfair and short-sighted recidivist provisions. Please join us in co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation.
Current Status: Referred to House Judiciary Committee
HB 2452 Fair Criminal Record Screening Act (Sponsor: Rep. Darisha PARKER)
Co-Sponsors: GALLOWAY, HILL-EVANS, McCLINTON, KRAJEWSKI, INNAMORATO AND SANCHEZ
View House Bill 2452
Summary from Rep. PARKER:
Roughly 1 in 3 adult Americans have some sort of criminal record. To put this in context, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, as many Americans have criminal records as college diplomas. As we all know, having offenses on your record can make it significantly more difficult to obtain housing, job placements, or public benefits.
All too often otherwise qualified individuals are not considered for jobs because they have a past criminal offense. Many of these offenses are unrelated to the job in question, are non-violent in nature, or occurred in adolescence. While both federal and state law offer some protections in this area, it is clear more needs to be done to give these job seekers, as well as those currently employed, a second chance by removing unfair roadblocks to economic stability. Not only is this good for job seekers, it is also good for employers who might overlook otherwise qualified individuals because of a mistake made years ago.
Pennsylvania has taken several steps in the right direction in the area of criminal justice reform in recent years, and my legislation, entitled the Fair Criminal Record Screening Act, continues this trend. This bill will better protect individuals currently employed as well as those applying for open positions who have criminal records through several important changes. First, it will prohibit employers from inquiring about or using information related to a job applicant’s or current employee’s juvenile or summary offenses, cases that did not result in convictions, and cases that were expunged or pardoned when determining an individual’s suitability for employment. Second, my legislation contains specific factors for employers to consider when determining whether an individual’s past criminal record relates to their current position or a position they have applied for. Lastly, it requires enforcement by the Department of Labor and Industry and sets forth penalties for violations.
This legislation is a win-win for employees and employers alike. Not surprisingly, several other states and local jurisdictions have similar laws on the books. It is past time Pennsylvania joins their ranks. I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting this common-sense reform.
Current Status: Referred to House Judiciary Committee