Two bills addressing criminal sentences passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this past week while another bill sparked a debate on sentencing violent criminals with multiple victims.
House Bill 1852, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens, R-North Wales, would require a convicted criminal to receive separate sentences for each crime.
The bill was opposed by several groups and Gov. Tom Wolf’s office, Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Havertown, said. Vitali said sentencing decisions should be left up to judges.
Rep. Timothy Briggs, D-King of Prussia, spoke in opposition to the bill, saying the “tough on crime error was an abject failure.” He noted a criminal justice reform bill was just passed last year.
“Unfortunately, here we go again,” Briggs said. “It must be political season in Pennsylvania.”
Briggs argued the bill would result in mandatory sentencing. Stephens shot back saying the bill did not require mandatory sentences, just separate sentences for each crime.
Representatives made noise when Rep. Cris Dush, R-Brookville, said he wanted to speak on the bill.
“If you’ve got a serial rapist who is taking advantage of individual women, children and the judge sentences for one and then sentences another offense and says, ‘You are going to serve that time concurrently,’ what justice is that for that second, or third, or fourth, or fifth, or sixth or tenth victim?” Dush said. “There is not justice for those individuals.”
The House did not vote on the bill and it remains under third consideration.
A second piece of legislation opposed by the governor’s office and other groups passed the House by a 102-91 vote. House Bill 726, sponsored by Rep. Anthony DeLuca, R-Pittsburgh, would require those sentenced for a firearms offense in addition to other crimes to serve the firearms conviction consecutively and not concurrently. The bill now goes to the Senate.
The House also approved a bill that would require anyone convicted of DUI to wear an alcohol monitoring device as a condition of their bail. The bill, sponsored by Stephens, now goes to the Senate for approval.
Other bills passed by the House include:
• House Bill 44 allows corrections officers to carry tasers and requires a plan that ensures no officer is ever left alone. The bill also allows corrections officers to testify at inmate parole hearings. It passed unanimously and now goes to the Senate.
• Senate Bill 742 exempts vehicles newer than 8 years old from emissions testing. The bill passed the Senate in June.