Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Four Bills Out of Committee

HARRISBURG − October 19, 2021 − The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) and co-chaired by Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10), held a meeting today advancing three bills focused on probation reform and a fourth related to criminal justice and police protection.

The three bills related to probation were voted unanimously out of committee and 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.

“The probation reform bills passed today out of the Senate Judiciary Committee are critically needed to achieve the end goal of our criminal justice system, to deal justly and to get to a place where people can put their lives back together,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “Resolving issues of technical violations to probation, including allowing for scheduling remote meetings and making reasonable accommodations for the schedules of those on probation, are reasonable steps toward achieving this goal.”

The final bill passed out of committee, Senate Bill 814, introduced by Senator Yudichak (I-14) amends Title 18 to create two new offenses of “Evading arrest or detention on foot” and “Harming a police animal while evading arrest or detention.”  The bill honors a Scranton police officer, John Wilding, who died in 2020 from injuries sustained while pursuing three armed robbery suspects on foot.  Several Democratic Members raised concerns regarding technical aspects of the legislation including the gradation of the offenses but voted to move the bill forward with the understanding there would be an opportunity for additional dialogue and amendments. The bill was passed by a vote of 12-2 with Senators Amanda Cappelletti (D-17) and Maria Collett (D-12) voting in the negative.

On Senate Bill 814, Sen. Santarsiero noted, “This bill honors the memory of Officer Wilding and seeks to prevent the tragedy that befell him from happening again.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to modify some of the language in the bill.”

All four bills now advance to the full Senate for consideration.



Kayden’s Law Clears Senate Judiciary Committee in New Term

BUCKS COUNTY— January 25, 2021 — Senate Bill 78, known as Kayden’s Law, was unanimously voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon, one of the first bills to move out of the committee since the start of the new session.  The bi-partisan legislation is sponsored by Senators Steve Santarsiero (D-10) and Lisa Baker (R-20), and is named for Kayden Mancuso, a seven-year-old from Lower Makefield Township, who was killed in August 2018 by her biological father during a court-ordered, unsupervised visit granted following a year-long custody dispute.

“In the two years since Kayden’s death, I have been working with Kayden’s family and experts in the field of child abuse and child custody issues, to craft legislation along with Representatives Tina Davis (D-141) and Perry Warren (D-31), the sponsors of the legislation in the House, that would make a fundamental change to Pennsylvania’s child custody law,” said Sen. Santarsiero.  “Kayden’s death was a senseless and avoidable tragedy that shook our community, and together, the legislature can prevent others from experiencing this type of grief and loss.  We must ensure the safety of our children is the most important concern in contentious custody battles.”

“It is our duty to do everything within our power to protect the most vulnerable individuals within our communities, and I am pleased that this legislation will help to better protect children across our Commonwealth,” Senator Baker said.  “Our current state law failed to ensure the health and safety of Kayden, which was a heartbreaking tragedy, but, unfortunately, not unique.  This bill requires a court to consider certain critical factors to ensure that the health and safety of children are weighed before custody of a child is awarded to any party or parties.”

Kayden’s Law was voted unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2020, during the previous Senate session.  With the start of the new session in January 2021, all bills that were not passed in the previous session must be re-introduced and begin the legislative process anew.

At the time the bill was passed out of committee in September 2020, Sen. Santarsiero said, “Never again.  That should be our vow as lawmakers.  Never again should one of our children die or be abused because Pennsylvania law does not do enough to protect them. The tragedy of Kayden Mancuso’s death demonstrates that the current child custody law does not in fact do enough.”