Senator Baker E-Newsletter

View this email in a browser

In this Update:

  • “Grow PA” Bills to Support Affordable Pathways to Higher Ed, Career Prep Passes Senate
  • Camp Freedom’s Matt Guedes Serves as Senate Guest Chaplain
  • Bill to Protect Property Owners from Squatters Receives Senate Support
  • Senate Advances Bills to Combat AI-Generated Revenge Porn and Child Sexual Abuse Material
  • Baker Introduces Legislation to Equip Deputy Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers with Body Cameras
  • Happy Father’s Day

“Grow PA” Bills to Support Affordable Pathways to Higher Ed, Career Prep Passes Senate

Tens of thousands of students would have more opportunities to pursue affordable post-secondary education and career preparations programs under a package of bills approved with bipartisan support in the Senate.

The Grow PA initiative would create and expand programs to connect students to high-demand careers in Pennsylvania. The bills would not only make education and career training more affordable, but also provide strong incentives for students to stay and work in the state after completing their degrees and certifications.

Grow PA Scholarships would be established for in-state students who attend college in Pennsylvania, pursue a degree in a high-demand industry, and agree to live and work in that industry in Pennsylvania after graduation.

Grow PA Merit Scholarships would be created to allow high-performing, out-of-state students pursuing in-demand occupations to pay lower, in-state tuition at Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools.

Ready to Succeed Scholarships would be expanded to help as many as 24,000 additional students cover post-secondary education costs.

Fostering Independence Tuition Waivers would be expanded to nonresident students, waiving PASSHE tuition and fees for children in the foster care system and children who were adopted.

Performance-based metrics would be added to funding for state-related universities, including the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University and Temple University to provide added accountability to taxpayers.

A Higher Education Task Force would be created to improve higher education and career preparation programs.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion would be required for high school seniors, ensuring families have access to vital information on higher education aid, career and technical education, certificate programs and more.

The Grow PA plan also includes historic investments in career and technical education and dual enrollment.

Camp Freedom’s Matt Guedes Serves as Senate Guest Chaplain

I joined Senator Rose Mary Brown in welcoming Matt Guedes and his wife, Kelley, to the Senate where Matt served as guest chaplain.

He and the team at Camp Freedom are well-known throughout northeastern Pennsylvania, our commonwealth, and the nation, for offering hope and help through the healing environment of the outdoors and nature. They have served more than 10,000 veterans, and first responders, and their family members, as well as Gold Star families.

Matt exemplifies faith and service in wonderful combination. His ministry, his Army service, his devotion to his wife and children, are evidence of special kinds of commitment. His words reflect inner qualities; his deeds demonstrate an uncommon sort of leadership through constructive action.

Bill to Protect Property Owners from Squatters Receives Senate Support

The Senate approved legislation this week to establish more certainty for homeowners, law enforcement and landlords who encounter squatters. 

Under current Pennsylvania law, squatters would be considered trespassers once the property owner warns them they are not welcome and instructs them to vacate the property. Should the squatters remain in any place where they are not licensed or privileged to be, they commit the offense of defiant trespass. However, reclaiming property from squatters can be an exhausting and painful process. It requires a “notice to quit” be issued to individuals who have no legal right to the property, while imposing financial burdens and significant emotional strain on property owners.

Senate Bill 1236 clearly defines what constitutes a “tenant,” simplifies the reclamation process – by eliminating the need for a “notice to quit” to be provided to a non-tenant – and offers a practical solution to a deeply distressing problem.

This bill offers a practical solution to protect legitimate property rights and ensure homes are not unlawfully occupied. It represents a fair and balanced approach that safeguards the interests of all residents in our state.

The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Advances Bills to Combat AI-Generated Revenge Porn and Child Sexual Abuse Material

A package of bills aimed at protecting children from sexual predators and the criminal use of generative artificial intelligence (“AI”) was approved by the Senate this week.

The first two bills, Senate Bill 186 and Senate Bill 187, update Pennsylvania’s current legal term “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse material,” more accurately reflecting the true nature of the crime.

The average person has no difficulty recognizing the sexual exploitation of children—regardless of the form or means of distribution—as vile and thoroughly unacceptable. Yet the term ‘pornography’ has come to be entangled in arguments over free speech and artistic expression in the arena of adults. While the definitional clarity provided in these bills might seem like a small matter, it makes a big difference toward the successful prosecution of the creators and distributors of this destructive and harmful material.

The terminology change was the recommendation of the Joint State Government Commission Task Force on Child Pornography, a multi-disciplinary group of experts formed to identify inadequacies in current law relating to the prosecution of child pornography. The Task Force was created through Act 53 of 2021 I advanced along with the late Sen. Dave Arnold from Lebanon County.

The third bill, Senate Bill 1213, addresses the uses of generative AI for criminal purposes, particularly in the context of revenge porn and child sexual abuse material.

AI is a prime example of a powerful tool that, unfortunately, can be harnessed for nefarious purposes. As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, it is imperative that our legal frameworks evolve in tandem to ensure the safety and protection of all Pennsylvanians, particularly our most vulnerable population – children. We must remain vigilant and proactive in updating our laws to address the potential misuse of such technologies.

State and local prosecutors across the Commonwealth have encountered sexual predators using artificial intelligence to generate images of children being sexually abused. These materials, which are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, are a growing problem for prosecutors and law enforcement because the current statute only prohibits images of actual children, not images that are artificially generated.

There are gaps in the law when it comes to generative AI being used for illicit purposes like revenge porn and child sexual abuse material. These gaps prevent our DAs from going after these bad actors and holding them responsible.

In the context of revenge porn, the advent of AI infinitely expands the world of possible perpetrators. Previously, the group of people even capable of committing the crime of revenge porn was limited to those who had access to the intimate images in the first place—typically a scorned ex-lover who now seeks to damage their ex’s reputation by sharing those images with the world. But with AI, anyone with evil intentions—whether it be against a celebrity, government official, or co-worker—can cause the same substantial harm. The situation is even more concerning now because deep-fakes depict things that never actually happened in reality.

Baker Introduces Legislation to Equip Deputy Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers with Body Cameras

I recently introduced legislation to authorize deputy law enforcement officers with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Game Commission to wear body cameras.

Ten years ago, the passage of Act 202 authorized trained officers of both agencies to wear body cameras, including waterways conservation officers of the Fish and Boat Commission and wildlife conservation officers – now state game wardens – of the Game Commission. However, deputies of the agencies were intentionally excluded from the authorization – a prohibition that remains in effect. My Senate Bill 1194 would extend the benefits of body-worn cameras to the excluded deputies.

Body cameras are a crucial tool for modern law enforcement. They provide an accurate and unbiased account of officer engagements, ensuring the protection and integrity of both citizens and officers. Officers from these agencies often work independently in remote areas with poor radio and cellphone coverage and frequently encounter armed individuals. Additionally, their role has evolved to include confronting serious drug activity and other criminal cases beyond sporting safety and wildlife protection. Our officers deserve enhanced safety and accountability while working under challenging conditions.

The proposed legislation would not impose a mandate but leaves the final decision to each agency. Funding for the body cameras would come from the Fish Fund and the Game Fund.

Happy Father’s Day

Father’s Day is a time to reflect on the amazing men in our lives and let them know how much their dedication means to us. They show their love and guidance in so many ways, big and small, that make our lives better. Wishing all of the dads a wonderful day with their families!


Please do not reply to this email. If you would like to contact Senator Baker, submit a web contact form here:

Facebook Twitter/X Instagram Website

2024 © Senate of Pennsylvania | | Privacy Policy