HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted Tuesday to further narrow a new state law that requires people who work with children on the job or as volunteers to undergo background check, changes proposed in response to concerns about cost and inconvenience.
The Child Protective Services Law enacted late last year was prompted by the Jerry Sandusky and clergy child sex abuse scandals.
The House voted 102-91 to remove the law’s requirement for background checks for workers at colleges and universities who interact with students who are at least 16 years old and either enrolled or prospective students on a day visit.
The representatives also voted to make fewer volunteers subject to background checks. If the bill is enacted, the checks won’t be required for infrequent volunteers if they work near somebody who has passed the checks.
Criminal background checks by the state police and child abuse clearances from the Department of Human Services are required under the law for volunteers and people who work with children professionally.
The cost and effort required for the checks have raised complaints, and the Wolf administration announced earlier this month it was waiving fees for volunteers and lowering them for others.
The free or reduced-price policy does not apply to the more expensive FBI checks that are required for people who work with children if they have not lived in the state continuously for 10 years. Another amendment that passed Tuesday would make the FBI clearance required every five years, rather than every three years.
Lawmakers voted to remove a provision that would have reduced the number of people who are considered “mandated reporters” of suspected abuse, so the bill in its current form would retain the definition of mandated reporters that’s currently in law.
A final House vote on the bill could occur as early as Wednesday. If it passes, as appears likely, it would go to the Senate for its consideration.
The more vigorous checks passed late last year as part of a package of bills drawn up after a task force established because of the child abuse scandals recommended an overhaul of state law.
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