Harrisburg Update: Four Bills Make It Out of Committee, But Only Three Are Worth It

With the incremental progress of Pennsylvania’s legalization of cannabis – after New York and Pennsylvania, and after Pennsylvania has already made medical cannabis legal, and failed to prosecute individuals who grew marijuana for compassionate reasons – lawmakers are nibbling away at the other end of the judicial process. That is the onerous probation requirements of people who have been convicted of nonviolent crimes.

A bipartisan state committee, co-chaired by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) and Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10), has put forward three bills that would modernize parole regulations, and one to increase protection for police officers (with a guaranteed-to-pass animal protection addendum).

The parole bills are for people who are trying to build new lives or restore their old lives. To integrate themselves into families and communities. That means not always being able to travel to remote probation offices, based on a former residence. Or to make appointments, despite Covid restrictions, or having a new job.

The three bills are as follows:

Senate Bill 904, introduced by Senator Baker amends Title 42 to allow for the scheduling of “remote” probation meetings.

Senate Bill 905, introduced by Senator Baker amends the Pennsylvania Crime and Delinquency Law (Act 274 of 1978) by directing the County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee to establish criteria for when an offender’s schedule should be considered in the scheduling probation meetings.

Senate Bill 913, introduced by Senator Baker and Senators Camera Bartolotta (R-46) and Senator Anthony Williams (D-8) amends Title 42 to provide for comprehensive probation reforms.

Lastly, that police reform bill:

An Act amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in obstructing governmental operations, providing for the offense of evading arrest or detention on foot and for the offense of harming a police animal while evading arrest or detention. OK. Defense lawyers are going to have a field day with this one, because it implies that defendants will somehow KNOW that their fleeing will lead to the tragic harm to a police officer. In this case, Officer John Wilding, of Scranton, fell his death while pursuing three teenagers who were charged with robbery in 2015. Two of them were 15 when it happened but charged as adults. The officer, 25, fell 10 feet into an open basement. The connection to the second part, “the offense of harming a police animal while evading arrest or detention”? Good one. Officer Wilding was thinking about becoming a K-9 officer.

Linda Lee

Linda Lee

A former editor and reporter at The New York Times, Linda Lee has written seven books, and started a magazine about real estate and design in Miami. While her interest lies in Bucks County, her family lives near Harrisburg. She has a Shih Tzu named Yolo.

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