HARRISBURG – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved several notable bills addressing food insecurity, the ongoing opioid crisis, wiretapping and additional judgeships, according to the committee chair, Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20).
Senate Bill 598, sponsored by Baker, would extend the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act six years from the current expiration date of Dec. 31, 2023.
“Wiretapping is vital for fighting crime, but we also have to safeguard individual rights,” Baker said. “Years ago when wiretapping was given legal sanction, state officials determined that requiring a renewal of the authority every six years would provide the needed check-and-balance. With the Wiretap Act scheduled to expire at the end of this calendar year, it is time to begin moving on the reauthorization.”
Senate Bill 645, sponsored by Sen. Vince Hughes (D-7), would allow certain vacant or abandoned lands that are being used as community gardens to be adversely possessed after 10 years.
“The movement of transforming empty urban lots into community gardens is another building block for addressing food insecurity. However, these lots do not have sufficient legal protection, when private or public developers show up with plans for commercial projects,” Baker said. “This bill recognizes the necessary balance of interests.”
Senate Bill 165, sponsored by Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-2), amends the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the operation of safe injection sites and provide for related penalties. The bill is supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
“With the opioid crisis and its variants showing no signs of relenting, local officials and advocates are scrambling to find alternative strategies to avoid fatalities,” Baker said. “The economics and emotions factoring into the drug crisis are leading state legislators to attempt to sort out a process that works for those in the throes of addiction and for the citizens in areas struggling to cope.”
Senate Bill 361, sponsored by Sen. Judy Ward (R-30), would add one Court of Common Pleas judge to each of three judicial districts.
“As our population grows, criminal and civil cases also grow in number and complexity,” Baker said. “We must periodically deal with requests from counties for additional judgeships, and this legislation will provide the necessary additions.”
The four bills were approved by the committee and now head to the Senate for consideration.