Senator Baker E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Approves Stricter Penalties for Threats Against Schools in Pennsylvania
  • Bill Requiring Prosecutors to Notify ICE of Illegal Migrants Passes Senate
  • Senate Approves Bill Prioritizing Community Safety
  • Beware of E-ZPass Scam
  • Increasing Student Safety, Eliminating Vehicle Owner Fee
  • April is National Financial Literacy Month
  • Wyoming Area Regional Police Department Cuts Ribbon on New Headquarters

Senate Approves Stricter Penalties for Threats Against Schools in Pennsylvania

The Senate passed legislation this week, that would create heightened penalties for individuals who make terroristic threats to a school.

Senate Bill 975 would establish new felony criminal penalties for falsely reporting emergency threats to any school or institution of higher education in Pennsylvania.

In the 20th District, nearly a dozen schools were plagued last year by anonymous threats this year resulting in closures and lost instruction time and hindered student progress. I spoke with numerous parents and grandparents who were understandably frightened and upset. There is a serious fear factor involved with any threat and tremendous anxiety for the children, their families and educators.

In Pennsylvania, the crime of terroristic threats is generally categorized as a first-degree misdemeanor. However, if the threat causes disruption to the normal operations of a building, assembly area or public transportation facility, it is upgraded to a third-degree felony. Senate Bill 975 aims to heighten the severity of this offense to a third-degree felony, particularly when the threat involves a school or institution of higher education. Additionally, the bill includes an amendment to assist schools in recouping the full expenses associated with evacuations prompted by threats.

I offered an amendment to the bill following a discussion I had with the Pennsylvania State Police, local law enforcement and school superintendents. When these threats are made, our schools and emergency response units currently absorb a lot of unnecessary and financially draining costs. They deserve to be reimbursed for the expense so they can continue to provide educational services and community protection services to the full extent their budgets allow.

The amendment enables courts to force those convicted of the crime to pay for costs associated with the emergency response and evacuation. Those costs could include supplies, equipment or materials used to respond to the threat; food that went unused due to the diversion from normal operations; salaries and wages, including overtime pay, for police, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, school district staff or other government employees who responded to the threat; and salaries and wages for teachers, administrators or other school or higher education institution employees who were paid despite the diversion.

The bill will now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Bill Requiring Prosecutors to Notify ICE of Illegal Migrants Passes Senate

The Senate approved legislation that would require prosecutors across the state to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) whenever illegal migrants are charged with violating state law. It now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Currently in Pennsylvania, violations of state law by illegal migrants are not required to be reported to ICE, but Senate Bill 1127 would ensure illegal migrants who violate our laws are held accountable. The change will better safeguard our communities and protect Pennsylvania’s law-abiding citizens.

Earlier this year, two NYPD officers were assaulted in broad daylight by illegal migrants. Several of the offenders had been previously arrested but not reported to ICE and were released back on the streets. The shocking crime prompted New York City Mayor Eric Adams to call for ICE to be informed when illegal migrants have been charged with violations of state law.  

Senate Approves Bill Prioritizing Community Safety

The Senate passed legislation this week to strengthen the bail determination process for dangerous individuals: repeat violent offenders, drug dealers trafficking fentanyl and those who assault law enforcement officers or evade arrest on foot.

Senate Bill 1120 would only allow cash bail to be used and ban release on own recognizance or unsecured bail from being issued to those who pose a threat to public safety while they await trial. The bill is part of the Senate Republican effort to improve community safety across Pennsylvania as an average of 14 Pennsylvanians die every day from a drug overdose. It now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and approximately 50 times more potent than heroin. Two milligrams of fentanyl – the amount that fits on the tip of a pencil – is enough to kill an average person.

Beware of E-ZPass Scam

A new phishing scam is targeting E-ZPass account holders requesting information to settle outstanding toll amounts. The texts claim to be from “Pa Turnpike Toll Services” and center around urgent requests with your account that would result in a late fee if the balance does not get settled. Similar scams have been reported by toll agencies across the country in the past several days.

Customers who receive an unsolicited text, email or similar message suggesting it is from E-ZPass or another toll agency should not click the link. E-ZPass account holders can use approved safe methods to check their accounts such as the PA Turnpike E-ZPass website or the PA Toll Pay app available from the Apple App Store or Google Play store.

Those who receive a fraudulent text can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at The site is dedicated to sharing information on internet crimes across law enforcement agencies.

Increasing Student Safety, Eliminating Vehicle Owner Fee

As a result of action taken by Senate Republicans, students will be safer on their journey to and from school. Because of legislation now in effect, school districts may install and operate automated camera systems on school buses to capture violations committed by motorists.

Violations identified by the camera system will be reviewed by police under agreement with the school district. After that review, the school district may issue a violation and a $300 fine to the vehicle owner. These violations are civil penalties only and no points will be assessed to driver’s licenses.

Vehicle owners may request a hearing before a PennDOT hearing office, at no cost to the vehicle owner, if they feel they are innocent. Before the passage of the legislation, the vehicle owner was responsible for paying applicable civil filing fees.

To further enhance the safe transporting of school students, I sponsored Senate Bill 897.  This bill extends the stopping distance requirement when approaching a school bus with the signal arm extended and red lights flashing as well as increasing the penalties for repeat violators of this law.  The bill unanimously passed the Senate and is awaiting consideration by the House of Representatives.

April is National Financial Literacy Month

In April, we recognize National Financial Literacy Month, a time to celebrate work being done to improve the knowledge that helps people achieve their money-focused goals.

Senate Republicans recognized that young adults face financial decisions that can come with long-term consequences and passed legislation to arm high school students with money management skills. The new law requires completion of a half-credit personal finance course to graduate high school.

The course will give high school students the understanding they need about topics like credit and credit scores; savings and investments; college, home and auto loans; and planning for postsecondary education and retirement.

Wyoming Area Regional Police Department Cuts Ribbon on New Headquarters

I recently attended a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new Wyoming Area Regional Police headquarters, located at the former PA State Police barracks in Wyoming, Luzerne County. There is a lot of coordination and planning that goes into the formation of a regional police force. Repurposing state facilities for local use makes sense. Congratulations to everyone who worked to help make policing more efficient and more affordable for these communities!


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