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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 bill that has not received widespread attention.

About the bill

Pennsylvania is in the midst of a dramatic increase in drug overdose deaths driven by deaths attributed to heroin, fentanyl and other opiates.

As the state attempts to get a handle on, and fix, this alarming and devastating trend, the war on drugs rages on.

One of the efforts legislators have touted as a possible tool in dealing with the crisis is instituting mandatory minimum sentences for individuals caught selling drugs.

This year a bill cleared the state House that would impose mandatory minimum sentences on certain violent offenses and incidents of drug dealing within a school zone.

Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny County, wants to take that a step farther by imposing a mandatory minimum sentence on nearly all drug dealing cases.

House Bill 1807 would impose a five year mandatory minimum sentence on any person convicted of possession with intent to deliver if the drug in question was a narcotic.

This would include the sale of any amount of drugs like heroin, cocaine and prescription opiates.

“The epidemic continues,” Readshaw wrote in a co-sponsorship letter. “Too many of our family members are succumbing to the epidemic of heroin use.”

If the bill were to pass, it could increase the amount of time people convicted of drug dealing spend in prison.

In Cumberland County, the average minimum prison sentence for a person convicted of selling cocaine would quadruple under this bill and more than double for those convicted of selling heroin, according to data from the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing.

In 2016, there were more than 120 people charged with possession with intent to deliver in Cumberland County, according to court records.

Under this bill, if all those people were convicted of that offense they would combine to spend more than 600 years in prison.

Email Joshua Vaughn at jvaughn@cumberlink.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Sentinel_Vaughn.

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