Alina’s Law bill could portend a set of domestic violence related votes in Senate during 2018

Alina’s Law bill could portend a set of domestic violence related votes in Senate during 2018

Author: Stephen Caruso/Friday, December 15, 2017/Categories: News and Views

In light of the alleged murder of a University of Pittsburgh student in October, the Pennsylvania Senate passed SB 196, titled “Alina’s Law”, to increase the options for judges when issuing protection from abuse orders, while continuing to look at more bills to address domestic violence.

SB 196 would allow judges to put electronic tracking devices on the defendants in PFA cases, typical filed by women seeking protection from a violent domestic partner, if the judge feels tracking might be necessary.

The bill, written by Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) and filed in January, took on new life after  Alina Sheykhet was found dead in her apartment on October 8, and an ex-boyfriend, who a judge had just issued PFA against, was arrested soon after in relation to her passing.

Under Alina’s Law, if a PFA defendant is given an electronic tracker, authorities could warn the plaintiff if their abuser comes close by, while authorities could try to track down the wearer.

“We are operating in 21st century technology...we need to utilize that technology to the advantage of women who are in dangerous situations,” Hughes told the press December 12.

Sheykhet’s death motivated Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) to champion the bill, which passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee in November and was then approved unanimously by the full Senate on December 12.

“Alina’s situation prompted a call for action by myself and others, but there is no question we knew the bill was out there, [and] we have to do something about that,” Sen. Costa said Thursday.

The bill has now been sent to the House. 

But according to Costa, Alina’s Law is one of a number of bills he hopes move through the Senate with bipartisan support to address domestic violence, and he said has already had conversations with Senate Republican leadership about the bills.

While Senate Republican caucus spokesperson Jennifer Kocher could not confirm any discussions, she pointed to some of the bills, such as SB 919, which helps individuals in public housing move to a different home if assaulted by a domestic partner, and SB 313, which lets domestic abuse victims separate their phone bill from their abusers.

Both bills have already cleared committee and are awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

“We have every intention of continuing with that,” Kocher said of the trend of bills protecting domestic violence victims.

Costa, however, was concerned about the future of one bill, SB 501, which would force individuals subject to a protection from abuse from owning a firearm, which he thought could draw more controversy. After introduction in March, it hasn’t received a vote in the Judiciary Committee.

But Alina’s law’s passage, along with the other proposed legislation, drew praise from domestic violence advocacy groups.

“We appreciate that the state Senate has acknowledged the risks to victims of domestic violence through this bill and other legislation currently under review that is intended to provide additional protections to victims,” Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence said in a statement.