Following is a listing of legislative action for the week of June 3. Members of the General Assembly were scheduled to return to session June 10.
The Senate has approved legislation, SB 681, that would provide court-ordered protection for victims of sexual assault.
The legislation would authorize a sexual-assault victim to petition the court requesting protection from the defendant regardless of whether the victim seeks criminal prosecution.
The sponsor of the bill, state Senator Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, said that in Pennsylvania today, orders of protection are available to sexual-assault victims only if a criminal case has been initiated. But, in fact, only 28 percent of victims ever report their victimization to law enforcement, Greenleaf said. Even when victims do choose to report, many cases are not prosecuted because of the burden of proof or problems with evidence.
“The victims of sexual violence deserve the same protection from any future contact with an offender, regardless of whether they press criminal charges,” Greenleaf said. “Victims of sexual assault are left traumatized and fearful when they have no legal protection. We must provide court-ordered protection to keep them safe.”
Greenleaf said the bill was drafted with the support of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR).
According to PCAR, “the proposed legislation reflects a growing national trend to protect victims of sexual violence and, if passed, will provide victims with a civil remedy that requires the offender to stay away.”
The fees and interest charged by “payday lenders” would jump significantly under legislation, SB 975, approved by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.
Mark Price, an economist with the Keystone Research Center, which opposes the bill, said the legislation effectively increases to 300 percent the annual level of fees and interest payday lenders can charge. They are now effectively limited to 25 percent annually.
“There really isn’t much of a payday industry here because it’s too risky for them now with that level of return,” Price said.
“Payday lending” is the practice of making loans on the basis of a borrower’s future paycheck. Typically, the borrower is expected to pay back the loan in two weeks.
The sponsor of the legislation, state Senator Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, could not be reached for comment.