Regan
Regan

A bill to increase penalties for people who lure children into vehicles or structures was one of a handful of child abuse prevention measures to recently gain bipartisan traction with lawmakers in Harrisburg.

The legislation introduced by state Rep. Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg, makes luring a child under age 13 a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Under current law, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor with a fine of $10,000.

Regan's bill, House Bill 1594, unanimously passed the House Wednesday, the same day six Senate bills aimed at strengthening child abuse laws unanimously passed that chamber.

The group of legislation represents the largest overhaul of child abuse laws in about 20 years, following major child sex scandals involving former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Catholic church.

Luring bill: But Regan said his bill was inspired by an incident of alleged child luring that took place in his district, the 92nd Legislative District, which includes several municipalities in northern York County.

Last year, a couple of older teenage boys tried to lure a group of Dillsburg elementary school girls into their vehicle, Regan said. The girls ran away as the boys attempted to pursue, he said.

The girls were able to get away and the boys later said they were only joking, but the incident brought the issue into focus for Regan, he said.

"Luring leads to kidnapping and kidnapping leads to sexual assault," he said. "The moment for me was finding out there was such a lenient sentence, a misdemeanor, for such a heinous act."

A former U.S. marshal, Regan has worked on cases involving child abductions.

In the Senate: The bills approved by the Senate would set broader rules for who can be considered a perpetrator of child abuse and a clearer list of who must report a case of suspected child abuse to authorities.

One bill would increase the punishment for people found guilty of covering up child abuse; another bill would require medical professionals to report a case of suspected child abuse immediately to the county child welfare agency, while requiring the agency to disclose certain information to certain medical professionals.

Yet another bill would ensure the identity of an attacker does not need to be determined before a case of child abuse is included in the state's official statistics. It addresses a persistent complaint by child welfare advocates who say that requirement has kept the state's official statistics on cases of child abuse artificially low.

A task force created by the Legislature issued detailed recommendations late last year, providing a blueprint for the bills.

As Regan's bill goes to the Senate for approval, the Senate bills now go to the House.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said he expects a final package of child-abuse legislation to be on Gov. Tom Corbett's desk by Thanksgiving.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.