Safe Harbor, Protections for Hungry Neighbors and Environment, Highlight End of Legislative Session
The unanimous passage of Safe Harbor legislation protecting child sex trafficking victims in Pennsylvania was the last act of the General Assembly before recessing prior to Tuesday election. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill into law on Oct. 24.
The law redirects victims away from prosecution for prostitution or other crimes related to their trafficking and into appropriate services. Women of the ELCA throughout Pennsylvania were especially supportive in this advocacy over several legislative sessions.
“This is such good news!” said the Rev. Linda Theophilus of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh. “We have sent letters and petitions and prayed — and now we can rejoice!” Emmanual joined with Apostles Lutheran to write letters to lawmakers encouraging them to support Safe Harbor to add their voices to “God’s work. Our hands.” service project in 2015 and 2016 and sent letters again in 2018. Theophilus also did presentations about the legislation with her local ministerium and a 2017 joint gathering of Women of the ELCA from Northwestern and Southwestern Pennsylvania synods.
The bill was the last addressed in a late-night session on what was the last scheduled voting day for the legislature, meaning all pending legislation has died, unless House or Senate leadership were to make the unusual move of calling the General Assembly back into session for more than post-election legislative leadership selection.
Other legislative highlights:
The last voting day saw rapid action on dozens of bills. It also prompted last-minute calls and emails from LAMPa advocates urging their lawmakers to reject harmful bills, including HB1659 (see how your lawmakers voted), and HB2138 (see how your lawmakers voted) which would have imposed costly and harmful barriers to food and medical assistance, as well as HB2154 (see how your lawmakers voted), which would have rolled back environmental protections on oil and gas drilling to 1980s standards. HB2138 passed the General Assembly, but was vetoed by the governor.
Among other successes for LAMPa’s state legislative work in 2018 were the passage of HB2060 (see how your lawmakers voted) and HB1419 (see how your lawmaker voted). HB2060, now Act 79 of 2018, requires that firearms to be turned over to police within 24 hours in cases of domestic violence. The previous law allowed the firearms to be turned over to a friend or relative in 60 days. HB1419, now Act 56, known as the Clean Slate law, allows Pennsylvanians to seek having their nonviolent misdemeanor records that carried a sentence of a year or more in jail sealed if they have remained out of trouble for 10 years and paid all fines and costs and automatically seals records for second- or third-degree misdemeanor convictions that carried sentences of two years or less if the person has avoided other convictions for a decade, as well as for arrest records of those who were never convicted.