The Pa. House reconvenes on Monday; Here’s what lawmakers have on the table
The House is likely to vote on constitutional amendments to give sexual abuse survivors a window to sue their attackers
The Pennsylvania Capitol on Monday, March 6, 2023.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives returns to session on Monday for its first voting day in nearly two months with a number of bipartisan legislative priorities on the table.
But one initiative that has long enjoyed strong support from both sides of the aisle could test the readiness of House Democrats and Senate Republicans to dismantle a partisan wall standing in the way of popular legislation.
The House is likely to vote on a pair of bills that would allow voters to decide whether the state Constitution should be amended to provide legal relief for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Senate Republicans have said they’re unwilling to pass the measure unless it’s bundled with GOP-favored amendments to require voter identification, election audits and legislative regulatory review.
The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday voted out a version of the survivors’ amendment sent to the House after passing in the Senate in January. It was amended to strip out the other proposals leaving just the amendment that would create a window for abuse victims to sue their attackers.
Judiciary Committee Chaiperson Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, said he didn’t approve of the Senate using abuse victims as “pawns” in the legislative process but said that he would be willing to discuss election reform on a broader basis.
Lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously, however, on House Bill 900, which expands protections for incarcerated pregnant women and mothers. They include prohibitions on shackling and solitary confinement and assure that new mothers are permitted time to bond with newborns.
Two education bills are also on the table.
The House Education Committee earlier this month reported out House Bill 301, which requires schools to provide educational materials to parents of children in sixth through 12th grades about eating disorders and resources for addressing them. It also creates a statewide task force to develop guidance and resources for parents.
Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Allegheny, who was a co-prime sponsor, said the bill is the result of about six years of work by a group of constituents who wanted to raise awareness among parents of eating disorders, what red flags to look for and how to get their children help.
The second education bill would revise the state Public School Code to remove archaic and derogatory terms describing students with physical disabilities, developmental delays and mental health issues.
After a carbon monoxide leak at an Allentown daycare center sickened dozens of children and caregivers last year, Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-Lehigh, sponsored legislation to require detectors for the colorless, odorless gas produced by heating systems. The House Health Committee reported the bill out with a 17-4 vote last month.
The Health Committee also advanced legislation that would bar medical students from performing pelvic exams on patients who are under anesthesia for unrelated procedures.
State Reps. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Philadelphia, and Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomery, introduced the legislation three years ago after a constituent told Fiedler that a pelvic exam had been performed on her for “training purposes” while she was unconscious.
That’s allowed under existing state law and is used as a learning opportunity in medical schools and teaching hospitals.
“I have to say, I was shocked,” Fiedler said. “And the more I researched the situation, the more and more horrified I was as a lawmaker and as someone who has been a patient.”
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