Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.
These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.
Each week The Sentinel will highlight one of the bills that has not received widespread attention.
About the bill
As the number of people dying of drug overdoses increases and more attention is paid to the use and abuse of opiates like heroin, one reaction has been to be more punitive on the people selling the drugs.
That is the case with Senate Bill 662, introduced by Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Beaver County.
Bartolotta’s bill would create the new felony crime “drug delivery resulting in serious bodily injury” if someone is seriously injured as a result of using illicit drugs.
Pennsylvania has a law making it a homicide if a person delivers or sells drugs that result in a death.
“The issue was brought to my attention during a public hearing hosted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, which explored the impact of the heroin and opioid addiction crisis,” Bartolotta wrote in a co-sponsorship letter. “A panel of district attorneys shared testimony supporting the need for a change in this state statute to help combat the opioid epidemic.”
She states in the co-sponsorship letter that since Pennsylvania does not have a statute creating the crime of “drug delivery resulting in serious bodily injury,” district attorneys hand those cases over to federal prosecutors.
This, she says, “places an undue strain on the United States Attorneys Office and takes away the ability of local prosecutors to pursue convictions in their home jurisdictions.”
Bartolotta introduced a similar bill in previous years and introduced another piece of legislation creating the crime of “drug delivery resulting in serious bodily injury” earlier in the current session.
Under that bill, Senate Bill 174, “drug delivery resulting in serious bodily injury” would be considered a crime of violence similar to murder, rape and aggravated assault.
Serious bodily injury is defined as “creating a substantial risk of death or which causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of a body member or organ.”