HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) — With heavy snow falling, the state Senate made it into the Capitol Wednesday to vote through a raft of bills that aim to increase protections for crime victims.
One of the measures is now on its way to the governor’s desk, and six others are headed to the House for approval.
Most are geared to help people facing domestic violence, and as Democratic Senator Leader Jay Costa noted, the effort is totally bipartisan.
“This is an important day here today,” he said. “Despite the inclement weather, we were able to stay here and get these measures done, and now we call upon the House of Representatives to take these measures up.”
One of the more significant bills would amend the commonwealth’s gun laws to force abusers under restraining orders to give up their weapons more quickly.
It would also eliminate a provision that let friends or family hold those firearms, and instead require that they be turned over to law enforcement.
Two more measures help victims take their abuser’s name off a shared phone plan, and make it easier for them to switch public housing units.
Others create clearer guidelines for bail in domestic violence cases, ensure victims get law enforcement protection during restraining order cases, and make it easier to extend those orders.
A final bill is known as Marsy’s law, for a California woman killed by an ex-boyfriend in 1983.
It would amend the constitution to create a “bill of rights” for crime victims.
Republican sponsor Guy Reschenthaler, of Allegheny County, said it has already passed in 6 other states.
“The rights of the accused will continue to be protected under the constitution,” he noted. “And victims will have the same rights too–however, those rights will be stronger.”
Governor Tom Wolf said he supports the measures, and urged the House to send them to him.