Senate Judiciary Committee Unanimously Moves Fentanyl Test Strip Bill to Full Senate

HARRISBURG −February 10, 2022 − The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) and co-chaired by Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10), advanced a bill legalizing the personal use and possession of fentanyl test strips to the full Senate for consideration.

Senate Bill 845, sponsored by Senator Tim Kearney (D-26) amends the definition of drug paraphernalia contained in the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act to specifically exclude fentanyl test strips utilized for personal use.

Fentanyl is a strong synthetic opioid that can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine.  Fentanyl is inexpensive to make and is easily cut into drugs, including heroin and cocaine.  According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2019 fentanyl was found in 51 percent of the total overdose deaths in the United States.

“The prevalence of fentanyl in street drugs has dramatically increased opioid deaths in every community,” said Senator Santarsiero.  “If we can do everything that we can do to save lives, while we are doing all the other things to stop this opioid epidemic and help people, then that’s what we ought to be doing.”

Fentanyl test strips can identify the presence of fentanyl in unregulated drugs. They can be used to test injectable drugs, powders, and pills, allowing for harm-reducing decision making by the user.  To date, 14 states have passed similar legislation.

“I have heard from families in Bucks County who support this legislation because it will prevent fatal overdoses. With strong, bi-partisan support, I was pleased to see this legislation voted unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Santarsiero continued.  “If SB 845 is enacted into law, Pennsylvania would join 18 other states and Washington DC for providing greater access for personal use of fentanyl test strips to prevent overdoses and save lives.”

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Legislation Requiring Written Non-Prosecution Agreements to Be Introduced

HARRISBURG − July 2, 2021 − Senators Lisa Baker (R-20) and Steve Santarsiero (D-10) announced their intention to introduce legislation requiring all future non-prosecution agreements to be in writing to be enforceable.

The action comes in response to the recently decided case of Commonwealth v. Cosby, where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the criminal convictions of Cosby for aggravated indecent assault. 

The Court’s decision was based upon the fact that certain inculpatory testimony, which had been given in depositions at an earlier civil trial, was admitted at Cosby’s subsequent criminal trial.  Overturning the trial court’s determination to the contrary, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that the testimony of Cosby at the earlier civil trial was provided only after an enforceable oral non-prosecution agreement was entered into with Cosby, and that Cosby relied on that agreement in providing his testimony at the civil trial. Allowing the admission of the inculpatory testimony, according to the Court, violated Cosby’s due process rights.

“The recent Supreme Court decision in Commonwealth v. Cosby highlighted a need for clearer rules regarding the prosecution of crimes,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “Requiring that non-prosecution agreements must be in writing will protect the due process rights of the accused, while helping to ensure that victims have access to justice.” 

“The oral agreement may be legal for the moment, but it is indefensible given what we have learned about the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment throughout our society,” said Sen. Baker. “The system is slanted too heavily toward perpetrators, discouraging reporting and denying a true chance of justice for those with the fortitude to bring charges.” 

“This oral agreement turned into a horrible miscarriage of justice. We must act to prevent a repetition,” Baker and Santarsiero added. 

The Senators serve as the Republican and Democratic chairs, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction in this matter.

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Senator Santarsiero Urges Vote on Statutory Fix for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

HARRISBURG – April 19, 2021The following statement is attributable to Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10), Democratic Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee: 

“Throughout the debate around a two year window for childhood sexual assault survivors to sue their abusers, we have heard moving testimony about the trauma these victims experienced and the solace that would come from being able to seek justice in court.  We can, and must, act today to ensure there is no further delay in bringing victims of childhood sexual assault closer to the justice they have been denied for too long.  They must have their day in court.  The legislation passed by the House last week, HB 951, should be brought up for a vote in the Senate and sent to the Governor’s desk without delay.” 

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