Squirrel Hill, Pa. − May 9, 2019 − Members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate stood together today outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh to announce plans for legislation that will address hate crimes.
“Hate crimes are on the rise, and as leaders, we have the opportunity to modernize our legal system to address that fact,” said Representative Dan Frankel. “My constituents, including the many people affected by the attack on the congregations at Tree of Life, are begging us to do something to help keep them safe. I believe that we can come together to answer that call, beginning with this package of legislation.”
“The Tree of Life tragedy last fall shone a light on the shortcomings in Pennsylvania law relating to hate crimes and ethnic intimidation. Unfortunately, it was not the first and may not be the last crime committed in the Commonwealth fueled by hate,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr. “After reviewing current laws and talking to various state and local agencies, we have identified many deficiencies in our state statutes and have plans to address them.”
“We have to do something if we want behavior to change,” said Representative Ed Gainey. “We have an obligation to protect people at all times. If we work together, we can accomplish this. The one thing we know for certain, and history has proven this, when we come together, there’s nothing we can’t change.”
The bills are aimed at creating a comprehensive defense against hate crimes. Bills will be introduced in both the House and Senate and have already garnered bipartisan support. They will:
- Provide the Attorney General with Concurrent Jurisdiction in Crimes Involving Ethnic Intimidation
- Require Hate Crimes Offenders to Complete Diversity Classes and Allowing Community Impact Statements
- Mandate MPOETC Training on Investigating, Identifying and Reporting Crimes of Ethnic Intimidation
- Create a Private Right of Action for Civil Rights Violation
- Institute a Reporting System for Postsecondary Institutions
- Begin a hate groups database
Cosponsorship memos for the Senate legislation are attached here.