May. 04, 2020

HARRISBURG – Today the House Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin), considered multiple bills dealing with the protection of individuals with intellectual disabilities, law enforcement personnel, health care workers and others.

“As we continue to deal with managing the outbreak of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, we must also continue to be thoughtful in using our time in Harrisburg to progress other legislation that is vital to the protection of many Commonwealth individuals,” said Kauffman.

House Bill 1827, which passed the committee, wouldadd a sentencing enhancement foranyone convicted of causing or aiding in suicide when the person who commits suicide is under 18 years old or has an intellectual disability.

“This bill addresses a particularly despicable crime and was authored by a colleague who had an incident take place in her district,” said Kauffman. “In that situation, a young woman, who suffered from depression, turned to a website for advice about how to end her own life. According to press accounts, the website contained information about how to prepare poison. The young woman did so and then contacted the website, saying she was terrified. The person answering on behalf of the website wished her well on her journey instead of encouraging her to seek help. This was a horrible situation that highlights a crime we need to address.”

Other notable bills passed by the committee include:

House Bill 2016,which wouldcreate the criminal offense of harassment of a law enforcement officer if a person intentionally or knowingly causes an officer to come into contact with saliva or other bodily fluid by throwing, tossing or spitting the bodily fluid. If the person knew, should have known, or believed such fluid or material had been obtained from an individual who was infected by a communicable disease, then the offense is a felony of the third degree. In any other situation the offense is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Senate Bill 275, which would incorporate the current offense of “strangulation” into other areas of law, including classifying strangulation as a “crime of violence” similar to other violent offenses. Studies show nearly half of all female domestic violence victims report having been strangled.

Senate Bill 351, which would raise the penalty for an assault on a health care practitioner, while in the performance of duty where there is bodily injury, from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a felony of the second degree.

House Bill 1655, which would allow the attorney general to investigate and institute criminal proceedings for any felony animal cruelty offense.

Another bill approved by the committee was House Bill 2056, which would provide that a person is guilty of aggravated assault, a felony of the second degree, if he or she attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to a person with a physical or mental disability.

“This was another bill that gained unanimous support from committee members due to the heinous nature of the crime,” said Kauffman. “The author of the bill drafted the legislation in response to the assault of Cody Overdorff, a young man with physical and intellectual disabilities, who was lured, attacked and beaten by a group of four people without provocation. While this group was arrested for the assault, they were only charged with misdemeanors since Overdorff’s injuries did not constitute ‘serious bodily injury.’ I find it appalling that people would intentionally prey on those most vulnerable in our society, and I support them being subject to harsher penalties.”

All bills passed by the committee now go to the full House for consideration.

Representative Rob Kauffman
89th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Tricia Lehman