PCAR's Current Legislative Agenda
Sextortion—it is time to make it a crime.
A hardworking single mom with two children can barely make rent. Her landlord threatens to evict her and her kids unless ...
An abused wife seeking a divorce can't afford legal fees. The attorney agrees to waive the cost if...
A new employee is promised a promotion - or a dismissal - from an employer unless...
A teenager is photographed nude by their coach. He promises not to share them, as long as...
This exercise of coercive power occurs every single day when sexual acts or images—not money—are the currency for a bribe. Current Pennsylvania law does not fully address the offense of sextortion, which results in inadequate reporting, charging, prosecuting, and sentencing practices throughout the Commonwealth. Establishing sextortion as a criminal offense with serious consequences will reduce its prevalence and protect victims.
Rape should never convey parental rights.
In Pennsylvania, a convicted rapist can assert parental rights over the victim’s child. That is wrong and must end. While a convicted rapist cannot have custody, they still possess parental rights—an unreasonable burden and re-victimization of the victim and their child. Closing an inadvertent loophole in Act 40 of 2015 can put a stop to this unintended consequence.
Remove barriers to reporting campus sexual assault.
Over 80% of college students never report their sexual assaults to campus officials. Why? Stigma, fear, and shame often inhibit victims from coming forward. Yet, the more campuses know about the prevalence of sexual assault, the more informed they can be in establishing effective prevention and response strategies.
- Anonymous reporting enables victims to report an assault to campus officials while maintaining their privacy and giving them time to consider their options. This is a critical tool for victims and provides schools with valuable information to protect the larger campus community.
- PCAR supports SB 874, sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), which provides for an online anonymous sexual assault reporting mechanism at institutions of higher education.
- Amnesty policies support bystanders, witnesses, and victims in coming forward to report sexual assault. No student should have to choose between protecting their student record from infractions and protecting the safety of the larger community from sexual assault. Amnesty allows students to report sexual assault without fear of retribution for violations like drinking.
- PCAR supports HB 1757, sponored by Rep. Dean (Montgomery County) and SB 871, sponsored by Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks)
Strengthen rape kit testing and evidence collection.
PCAR supports multi-faceted efforts to better understand and address the serious factors impeding the proper collection and testing of sexual assault evidence. A streamlined and standardized trauma-informed methodology developed in collaboration with the Pennsylvania network of rape crisis centers, along with adequate funding, is essential to this effort.
SR 75: Study on Pennsylvania's rape kit backlog
Sponsor: Mensch - Montgomery County
This bill would commission the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study on the current rape kit backlog in Pennsylvania, including an assessment of federal and state funding sources to expedite kit testing, the capacity of law enforcement, and the state's overall compliance with Act 27 requirements pertaining to victim notification, consent, reporting and other requirements.
This bill was adopted on May 24, 2017.
SR 742: Survivors' Bill of Rights
Sponsor: Stewart Greenleaf - Montgomery County
This bill would align Pennsylvania’s victim rights with the federal Survivors’ Bill of Rights, which passed in Fall 2016. SB 742 would expand victims’ rights in PA to:
- Not to be prevented from, or charged for, receiving a medical forensic exam
- Have a sexual assault evidence collection kit or its contents preserved without charge, for the duration of the maximum statute of limitations;
- Be informed in writing of policies governing the sexual assault evidence collection kit;
- Be notified at least 60 days before the date of disposal of the kit;
- Consult with a sexual assault counselor;
- Be informed of all rights, including victim compensation and restitution rights.
PCAR supports this bill
HB 1209: Rape kit contact line and evaluation
Sponsor: Senator Langerholc
This bill would establish a phone line for hospitals to call when law enforcement has not picked up rape kits within the 72-hour timeframe Act 27 requires. The bill would require Pennsylvania State Police to assess current rape kit volume and factors and to consult with PCAR in evaluating local multi-agency collaborations. PCAR partnered with Rep. Neuman (original sponsor of the bill) and then Senator Langerholc (sponsor of SB 1209) in addressing this current gap in sexual assault evidence collection and testing. PCAR advocated for the bill to include kits with unknown jurisdiction.
PCAR supports measures to better understand and address factors that impede the collection and testing of sexual assault evidence as well as best practices in victim notification and support.
Additional Resource: PCAR Testimony before PA House Committee on Labor and Industry (4/28/18)
Bills of Interest
SB 3: Abortion restriction
Sponsor: Brooks - Mercer County
This bill would reduce a person's access to abortive services from 24 to 20 weeks, with no exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
PCAR opposes this bill.
Note: This bill passed both the Senate and House of Representative, but was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf on December 18. Lawmakers could override Gov. Wolf's veto, but it would require a two-thirds vote from each body. The Senate passed the bill, 32-18 while the House approved it by a 121-70 vote. To override it, the Senate would been 33 votes from its 50 members, while the House would need 136 of its 203 members.
SB 10: Penalties for immigrant refuge policies
Sponsor: Reschenthaler - Allegheny County
This bill would penalize municipalities that provide "refuge" to immigrant communities, withholding critical funds for victim services, homeless shelters, and other lifelines for vulnerable populations. The bill could further undermine the safety of immigrant victims and their families.
PCAR opposes this bill.
SB 261: Statutes of limitations reform in child sexual abuse cases
PCAR continues to advocate for the passage of SB 261 which would eliminate criminal limitations going forward, expand the civil limitations from 30 to 50 years, and provide a one-time window for previously time-barred victims to seek civil justice and remedies.
SB 1011 and HB 1993: Marsy's Law
Sponsors: SB 1011 Guy Reschenthaler--Allegheny and Washington counties & HB 1993 Sheryl Delozier--Cumberland County:
Marsy’s Law elevates victims’ rights to the constitutional level—as opposed to the current statutory level—putting them on the same footing as defendants in our courts and leveling the scales of justice. This provides victims a stronger voice in criminal proceedings. Marsy’s Law provides victims with rights to be heard and present, to receive notice of rights and proceedings, to confer with prosecution, to timely proceedings, and others. Constitutional rights affords victims and their advocates standing to assert these rights in trial and appellate courts.
PCAR supports Marsy’s Law
HB 114: Medical assistance for children
Sponsor: Baker - Tioga County
This bill would require individuals who are applying for medical assistance for their child(ren) to provide information about the noncustodial parent prior to receiving assistance. An exception was added for victims of domestic violence, per the Family Violence Option waiver in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.
PCAR requests an amendment to include victims of sexual violence, whose offenders may not be intimate partners or members of the family.
HB 489: Enhanced penalties for indecent exposure to minors
Sponsor: Quigley - Montgomery County
This bill would enhance penalties for offenses involving indecent exposure to minors under the age of 16, who are present and see the exposed genitals. Where the offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree, aggravating circumstances would include number of children under 16 who were present, the age of each person present under the age of 16, and the nature and character of the indecent exposure.
PCAR supports this bill.
HB 594: Prohibiting accelerated sentences for sexually offending a child
Sponsor: Benninghoff - Centre County
This bill would prohibit the state or court to authorize an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition for people who have sexually assaulted a child under the age of 18. This would include the following offenses: rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and aggravated indecent assault.
PCAR supports this bill.
HB 631: Mandatory probation for certain sexual offenses
Sponsor: Marsico - Dauphin County
This bill would require a three-year period of probation for people who have completed their sentences for Tier III sexual offenses. Tier III offenses include: kidnapping, rape, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, and aggravated indecent assault, incest, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact with a victim under the age of 13, and/or an attempt to conspire or solicit to commit such offenses.
The bill passed the House and Senate on Feb. 6.
PCAR supports this bill.
HB 741: Technical correction in mandatory minimum sentences
Sponsor: Stephens - Montgomery County
This bill provides a technical correction to evidentiary and sentencing procedures in Pennsylvania. This correction would reinstate mandatory minimum sentencing for a range of crimes, including sexually violent crimes against children and older adults and for failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements.
PCAR supports provisions related to sexual violence against children and older adults and failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements.
HB 1757 and SB 871: Amnesty
Sponsors: HB 1757 Madeleine Dean--Montgomery County and SB 871 Judy Schwank--Berks County
PCAR supports HB 1757 and SB 871
HB 1952: Sex Offender Registry
Sponsor: Ron Marsico--Dauphin County
In July 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled (in Commonwealth v. Muniz), that the sex offender registry is punitive, not civil, and therefore, could not be applied to individuals who committed sex offenses prior to the Adam Walsh Act enactment in 2012.
Following the Muniz ruling, in October 2017, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled (in Commonwealth v. Butler), that Pennsylvania’s current system of classifying individuals as “sexually violent predators” (SVP), was also unconstitutional because the SVP classification is punitive in nature, yet occurred post-conviction; at a lower “clear and convincing” as opposed to a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard; and was presented before a judge, not a jury of peers. All SVP hearings were halted by the Superior Court until the Pennsylvania General Assembly could address these constitutional concerns legislatively.
HB 1952 maintains the state’s sex offender registry for crimes committed post-2012, but reverts back to the previous version of the registry for individuals who committed crimes prior to the 2012 changes. Additionally, the bill would allow individuals with SVP classifications to petition to be relieved of their registration requirements after 25 years and enables individuals to update their status by phone, instead of in-person, if they have met their requirements.
HB 1952 was voted out of the Senate judiciary and is now in the Senate appropriations committee.
HB 1974: Crime Victims' Rights:
Sponsor: Hal English--Allegheny County
Crime victim rights: this bill affords crime victims the right to notified of, to attend, and to not be excluded from any criminal proceeding unless the court determines that the victim’s testimony would be altered as a result of the other proceedings.
HB 1974 was voted out of the House and is now being considered in the Senate judiciary committee.
PCAR supports this bill
SB 916: DNA Collection
Sponsors: Killion - Delaware County (SB 461) and Marsico - Dauphin County (HB 1523)
This bill would expand the crimes for which DNA samples are collected and processed. It strengthens public safety by collecting and uploading DNA into a national database, aiding law enforcement to identify and prevent repeat offenders.
PCAR supports these bills.
Recently passed legislation:
SB 554: Safe Harbor for minor victims of sex trafficking
Sponsor: Greenleaf - Montgomery County
This bill will protect, rather than prosecute, minor victims of sex trafficking and establishes training for first responders, funds, and services. PCAR participated in the PA Anti-Human Trafficking Advisory Work Group (PAHTAWG)--a coalition of advocates across the state that worked across multiple sessions to get this bill passed.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed SB 554 into law on Oct. 24.
SB 919: Relocation for victims in subsidized housing
This law requires housing authorieties to safely relocate victims of sexual and domestic violence, upon request, following an abusive incident and/or if the victim is in imminent harm of further violence. PCAR helped draft SB 919 in collaboration with Senator Art Haywood's office. This bill aligns PA with federal housing protections in the Violence Against Women Act and helps protect victims from further assaults and abuses.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed SB 919 into law on Oct. 24.
PCAR also reviews legislation at the request of allied stakeholders, such as PCADV, CVAP, OVA, PSP and the PDAA.
For questions or comments, please contact Kristen Houser at 717-728-9740 ext. 144 or Donna Greco at 717-728-9740 ext. 114
5 Ways to Get Involved with Public Policy
- Contact your local Senators and Representatives to advocate for an issue. It can be as easy as sending an email, posting a letter, calling their offices to leave a message, or scheduling an appointment in an elected official’s office to speak about an issue. Elected officials rely upon their constituents to tell them what the problems are and what is important to their districts.
- Register to vote for the upcoming elections. Check out our resources about voter engagement to prepare for election day.
- Attend local rallies, press conferences, other advocacy days at the Pennsylvania Capitol to advocate for issues that inspire you.
- Stay informed! Keep updated on current issues by reading newspapers, watching the news, and following PCAR’s social media pages for updates on local and federal policy.
- Utilize PCAR’s talking points and “What to Know” documents for information in your everyday conversations. Create discussions with family, friends, and co-workers about policy issues to enhance their knowledge.