Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of February 4. At press time, members of the General Assembly were set to return to session February 11.
Legislation, SB 150, which would require DNA to be sampled from those arrested for certain felonies and entered into a database, has cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee. Current law allows for DNA testing of those convicted of certain felonies, but not those charged.
The sponsor of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said the legislation will bring Pennsylvania up-to-date with technological advances, ensuring that DNA evidence is collected, analyzed and used effectively while establishing strong individual privacy protections.
But Andy Hoover, legislative director for the Pennsylvania ACLU, called the legislation an “invasion of privacy.”
“We have no problem with taking the DNA of a suspect to see if it matches DNA found at a crime scene,” Hoover said. “But to start taking the DNA of all those arrested for a crime and sending it to a database means they are suspects in thousands of other crimes.”
Hoover said the U.S. Supreme Court, in its current session, is considering the constitutionality of warrantless DNA collection of arrestees.
“The case involves a challenge to a Maryland law that is similar to the proposal in SB 150,” Hoover said. “That law was overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in that state, under federal constitutional principles.”
It addition to the DNA collection mandate, the bill would authorize a new type of DNA search to help identify suspects in unsolved crimes, would strengthen privacy protections and would require DNA laboratories and technicians to meet national standards.
Legislation that would require natural gas drilling companies to standardize deductions on all royalty checks has been approved by the Senate.
“If you read the bill, it looks like we’re making changes to the royalty laws, but we’re not,” said Adam Panake, an energy and environmental expert for the Senate Republicans. “What it does is make all the deductions read the same for all leaseholders.”
SB 259 requires that the division order include a name, number or combination of name and number that identifies the lease, property, unit or well for which payment is being made; the county in which the lease, property or well is located; the month and year of gas production; total barrels of crude oil or number of MCF of gas or volume of natural gas liquids sold; price received per barrel, MCF or gallon; total amount of severance and other production taxes and other deductions permitted under the lease, with the exception of the windfall profit tax; the net value of total sales after deductions; the owners’ interest in sales from the lease, property or well expressed as a decimal or fraction; interest owners’ share of the total value of sales prior to deductions; interest owners’ share of the sales value less the interest owners’ share of taxes and deductions; and contact information, including an address and telephone number.
The state House of Representatives has approved a measure, HB 19, that would require the state Department of Education to create age-appropriate guidelines for child exploitation and sexual-abuse awareness to be incorporated into the annual curriculum for public school children from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“If children are taught, starting at a young age, to identify ‘grooming’ and sexual abuse and know the importance of reporting such activity to a trusted adult, we can begin to eliminate this heinous criminal behavior and prevent many children from being abused or stop any further abuse,” said the sponsor of the legislation, state Representative Mauree Gingrich, R-Lebanon.
The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.
Legislation has passed by the House that would require courts to maintain a complete record of whether a child covered by a protection from abuse proceeding has been abused or is the subject of a child-abuse investigation.
Specifically, HB 328 would require a plaintiff in a PFA case to notify the courts if he or she has knowledge of a child-abuse investigation so that the courts will know that a PFA order issued may have a legal impact on the defendant in the realm of child abuse.
The legislation is one of the recommendations of the legislature’s Task Force on Child Protection established in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse case.
In a statement released with approval of the bill, the sponsor, state Representative Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, said, “The Task Force on Child Protection stated in its report that courts deciding PFA cases need to know whether a child has been abused or whether there is a perpetrator living in the child’s home, to ensure the well-being of the child, and so an appropriate order can be produced.”