Lawmakers debate child sex abuse laws
HARRISBURG — A computer system that does not track child abuse complaints among counties. Hospital lawyers who keep doctors from sharing medical information on children they suspect are abuse victims. Low pay and high burnout for young, inexperienced social workers.
Those are three main reasons the training and laws governing how and when child abuse claims are handled need to be overhauled, according to Senate testimony Tuesday by members of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection.
"Child abuse is an extremely real problem in this commonwealth as it apparently is in our society and our nation," said the panel's chairman, Bucks County District Attorney David W. Heckler.
The Legislature started the 11-member task force to examine the state's patchwork of child protection laws after Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach, was arrested in 2011 on charges of sexually abusing children. In November, the task force called for rewriting Pennsylvania's child protection laws to streamline the reporting process, create new statutes and increase penalties for crimes such as possession of child pornography.
Since then about 14 bills have been introduced in the Senate and at least four bills have been introduced in the House.
On Monday, the House voted unanimously for House Bill 90. It would allow the state attorney general or a local district attorney to use an administrative subpoena, which does not require judicial oversight, to obtain a computer IP address and the name and address of a computer owner suspected of viewing online child pornography. Law enforcement would then need a court-order...