New Laws Focus on Public Safety Issues

When historians look back at the General Assembly’s 2019-20 Legislative Session, the focus will undoubtedly be on our efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. That crisis has taken a tremendous toll on our Commonwealth, our economy and our families.

However, even as we’ve passed dozens of important bills that focus on a variety of issues related to the novel coronavirus, the legislature has also approved a wide spectrum of bills that impact our lives. This month, I will focus on several public safety bills that were approved by the legislature and signed into law. Certainly, I am pleased that my legislation (Act 62 of 2020) requiring smoke detectors in all childcare centers and family childcare homes is among those new laws.

Just as my legislation addressed last year’s tragic fire in Erie that claimed five young lives, another law came in response to the horrific mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018 in Pittsburgh that took 11 lives.  Act 83 of 2019 expanded a state program that provides safety grants to include faith-based institutions and non-profit organizations.

Several of the new laws address crimes against children and the victims of human trafficking, including measures that:

  • set significant penalties for the solicitation or advertisement of the sexual services of victims of human trafficking;
  • provide civil immunity when there is damage to a vehicle if forceful entry is necessary to prevent child deaths in hot cars;
  • establishes sexual extortion as a crime, up to a third-degree felony if the offender is an adult and the victim is under 18;
  • allows cases of strangulation to be considered in sentencing for subsequent domestic violence and other crimes and in child custody proceedings.

We also continued to address the opioid epidemic. While this crisis has been overshadowed by COVID-19, it definitely has not disappeared. One new law requires patients prescribed opioids to enter into treatment agreements with a prescriber to ensure they understand the risks of addiction and overdose, while another gives Medicaid Managed Care Organizations access to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to improve oversight of prescriptions and reduce the risk of opioid abuse.

Turning to education, improving classroom safety was a primary focus for a measure that provided $60 million for the School Safety and Security Grant Program and added new school security measures. Another law allows school security guards to be armed, establishes training requirements for all school security personnel and added sheriffs and deputy sheriffs to the definition of “School Resource Officer.” A third law clarified the powers of school police officers and included my provision that allows students to apply personal finance credits toward satisfying graduation requirements.

Student health and welfare were the foundation for a law that strengthened guidelines for CPR training in grades nine through 12 and added hands-only CPR instruction to Pennsylvania’s education curriculum. Another law requires that student athletes and parents be informed about the importance of electrocardiogram testing to detect underlying heart conditions that can lead to Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

In closing, I encourage local residents to visit my website,, and my Facebook page,, to keep up to date with state government news and learn more about state services and agencies.

Contact:         Matt Azeles       

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