A package of child-protection legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett included two York County proposals, one of which was a freshman legislator's first bill to become law.
Touted as the largest overhaul of child abuse laws in about 20 years, the 10-bill bundle followed recommendations made in a report released last year by the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, on the heels of major child sex scandals involving former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church.
But state Rep. Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg, a former U.S. marshal, said he was prompted to write his bill after an incident that took place in his district, after a couple of older teenage boys tried to lure a group of Dillsburg elementary school girls into their vehicle.
The provision authored by Regan, who started his tenure in the House earlier this year, will increase the penalties for people who lure children into vehicles or structures, making the 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.
Other changes: Also included in the package was a measure to expand mandatory reporting requirements for school districts to include reports of child abuse and "grooming" behaviors (such as the use of sexually explicit text messages) by educators.
Introduced by state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster and York counties, the new law also removes a requirement that victims file complaints within five years of turning 18 years old.
The reforms should make it much easier for school districts to investigate allegations and take the necessary action when necessary, Smucker said in a press release.
Corbett's office released a list of other provisions passed through the bipartisan package, and they include laws to:
• Change the definition of child abuse to lower the threshold from "serious bodily injury" to "bodily injury" and include knowingly, recklessly or intentionally committing acts of child abuse or failing to act when child abuse is being committed.
• Give those who report child abuse immunity from liability.
• Instruct the state's Commission on Sentencing to provide guidelines for offenses involving child pornography.
• Prevent the records of minor victims from being available for public review.
Reaction: Spring Grove resident Bev Mackereth, a former state representative from York, now serves as Secretary for the Department of Public Welfare.
She said the package will "create a culture that promotes greater awareness, more accountability and better coordination between state and local government, law enforcement and health and child welfare agencies."
The new laws take effect in 60 days.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.