Senator Baker E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Bills on Guardianship Law, Porch Pirating, Electronic Tracking Devices
  • State Would Automatically Return Unclaimed Property Under Bill Approved by Senate
  • Welcoming Trucksville Pastor David Martin to Harrisburg
  • Bill Requiring Child Lead Testing Approved by Committee 
  • Free Junior Game Warden Camps Offered Across PA

Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Bills on Guardianship Law, Porch Pirating, Electronic Tracking Devices 

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing and passed three bills to strengthen guardianship laws, address the increase in package theft, and to protect individuals from the unauthorized use of electronic tracking devices.  

When an adult of any age is deemed incapacitated by a court, a guardian may be appointed to become responsible to make certain decisions on the other person’s behalf. These can include the financial, medical, and personal concerns, among others, of the incapacitated person. 

Senate Bill 506, which I am sponsoring along with Sen. Art Haywood (D-4), would reform the laws of the guardianship system. The current system has weaknesses, which has led to cases of financial exploitation of the people the system is meant to support. 

The committee also advanced Senate Bill 527, which would address the growing rise of “porch pirating,” which sees packages stolen from someone’s porch. The bill creates a new crime, theft of mail, and implements specific penalties for repeat offenders. 

It is important that we give attention to new forms of criminal activities and make sure they can be prosecuted. This is especially relevant given the growth of online shopping, which has made porch pirating quickly spread. 

While tracking devices have been used for decades, the release of the Apple AirTag has resulted in a low-cost proliferation of such technology. Individuals with malicious intent can use these devices for illegitimate purposes. Rather than using them to locate commonly misplaced items, some people place them in people’s purses or on their vehicles when unaware. Current law is vague on criminal culpability.  

The final bill, Senate Bill 159, would make it a misdemeanor of the second degree to use such devices to track another person without consent. Exceptions include law enforcement agencies conducting investigations and parents keeping tabs on their children. 

State Would Automatically Return Unclaimed Property Under Bill Approved by Senate

The Senate unanimously approved legislation authorizing the state to return unclaimed property without the need for rightful owners to search for it. It now advances to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 24 would authorize the Pennsylvania Treasury Department to automatically return single-owner property for living individuals valued up to $5,000 after a thorough identification and verification process. The legislation streamlines the return of unclaimed money and property by eliminating the need for citizens to search and file a claim. For larger and more complex claims, owners would still be required to complete a claim form and provide additional information to confirm their identity and rightful ownership.

This commonsense initiative, which exemplifies how government should work to better serve its citizens, would return more money to hardworking Pennsylvanians who may be unaware of their unclaimed property. Search Treasury’s unclaimed property database here.

Welcoming Trucksville Pastor David Martin to Harrisburg

For the Senate’s opening prayer, I was pleased to welcome Senior Pastor David Martin to Harrisburg on Wednesday as our guest chaplain. He was accompanied by his wife of 51 years, Cathy.  

Pastor Martin founded the Cross Creek Community Church, which started in a Dallas storefront in 1999 with an overflow congregation of about a dozen. The church – now located in Trucksville – has grown significantly during his service, as they now see over 500 worshippers for an average Sunday service.  

His dedication to his community and country is abundantly clear through his service with the church, along with six years of service in the Army Reserves and a successful business career in our community.  

Pastor Martin is example for all of us to live by in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and it was a great honor to welcome him and Cathy to the Senate. 

Bill Requiring Child Lead Testing Approved by Committee

Because of too many sad cases of lead exposure, we have learned much about the disabling impairments exposure causes in children.  Yet, we have not mandated the sort of screening that would represent responsible prevention.  This week, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted this to advance Senate Bill 514, a bill I sponsored to do just that. 

My proposal would require a blood screening for lead exposure of all children by the age of two, and all children and pregnant women with known, demonstrated risk factors as identified by health care providers.  If for whatever reason a child was not testing by this age, then efforts would be made for a test by the age of six.  The bill also allows for parents to opt out under certain circumstances, such as religious grounds. 

The effects of lead poisoning are severe, including neurological and developmental disabilities. These tests would offer early detection of lead poisoning, allowing for prompt diagnosis and treatment for the infected child. While the effects are irreversible, being able to diagnose early can allow for measures to be taken to prevent future harm.  

The PA Department of Health has declared the entire Commonwealth to be at risk of lead poisoning, and approximately 8,000 children are poisoned every year. However, this number is likely higher, since only 20% of children are tested for lead poisoning. 

Free Junior Game Warden Camps Offered Across PA

The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) offers free Junior Game Warden Camps in each of PGC’s six regions in June and July for youth ages 12-15.

Campers will learn about wildlife crime forensics and how wardens catch poachers and solve wildlife-related crimes. Additional instruction will include woodland tracking skills, outdoor survival skills and wildlife capture techniques for nuisance complaints and research purposes.

Registration, available here, is limited to those who have not attended a camp previously.

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