Governor Tom Corbett today will sign into law ten bills that put Pennsylvania's children first by making significant improvements to the state's child protection laws.
"I thank the General Assembly for their work in passing the first pieces of a comprehensive legislative package to protect Pennsylvania's children,'' Corbett said. "The legislation I'm signing today will better equip our communities to protect children, and enhance the safety and security of the commonwealth's children."
Corbett signed two of the bills, Senate Bill 23 and House Bill 726, during a signing event in the morning at The Pennsylvania Child Resource Center in Mechanicsburg.
Senate Bills 28, 30, 34 and 1116 and House Bills 321, 414, 1201 and 1594 will be signed later in the day.
The new laws follow the recommendations from a November 2012 report by the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, established through joint resolutions sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin).
The bills the governor signed will:
Amend the definition of child abuse to lower the threshold from serious bodily injury to bodily injury and include knowingly, recklessly or intentionally committing acts of child abuse or failing to act when child abuse is being committed. The bill also provides exclusions from substantiation of child abuse. (House Bill 726, Rep. Scott Petri (R-Bucks))
Broaden the definition of perpetrator to include employees or volunteers that have regular contact, school teachers and employees, and individuals related to the child. (Senate Bill 23, Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne))
Recognize that perpetrators can be as young as 18 and create new protections that address false reports and intimidation. (Senate Bill 28, Senator Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh))
Provide immunity for reporters from liability, penalties for false reporting and improved appeals processes. (Senate Bill 30, Senator Ted Erickson (R-Chester))
Expand the basis for disciplinary action against teachers to include findings of child abuse. (Senate Bill 34, Senator Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster))
· Clarify and encourage joint child abuse investigations between county children and youth agencies and law enforcement (Senate Bill 1116, Senator LeAnna Washington (D-Philadelphia))
· Instruct the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to provide guidelines for offenses involving child pornography. (House Bill 321, Rep. Marcy Toepel (R- Montgomery))
· Declare that when awarding custody, a parent's involvement with cases of child abuse shall be considered and provide for information sharing on child protective services and general protective services to the jurisdiction determining custody. (House Bill 414, Rep. Bernie O'Neill (R-Bucks))
· Prevent the records and name of minor victims of sexual or physical abuse from being available for public review. (House Bill 1201, Rep. Bryan Barbin (D-Cambria))
· Establish the offense of luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure. (House Bill 1594, Rep. Mike Regan (R-York))
"The actions taken by Governor Corbett and our legislature will create a culture that promotes greater awareness, more accountability and better coordination between state and local government, law enforcement and health and child welfare agencies," said Department of Public Welfare Secretary Beverly D. Mackereth.
"These new laws are helping to transform our commonwealth into a state with several of the stiffest penalties for child abuse in the nation," Corbett said. "Enacting stronger child protection laws is one of those important moments when we come together and stand up for those who have suffered in silence and ensure that justice is served."
In addition to child welfare advocates, Corbett was joined at the live signing in Mechanicsburg by legislative sponsors, Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) and Rep. Scott Petri (R-Bucks), as well as Senator LeAnna Washington (D-Philadelphia), Rep. Mike Regan (R-York), Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin), Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams), Rep. Bryan Barbin (D-Cambria), Rep. Katharine Watson (R-Bucks), Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland), Rep. Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery), Rep. Bernie O'Neill (R-Bucks) and Rep. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster).
For more information on Department of Public Welfare services and benefit programs for children, visit www.dpw.state.pa.us/forchildren/. For more information on the Pennsylvania Child Protection Task Force, visit www.childprotection.state.pa.us/.