New year marks start of new laws in state affecting electronics disposal, euthanization, child abuse signs in schools
Starting in January, Pennsylvanians will not be able to discard old televisions, computers or radios in the trash. Animal shelters will be required to euthanize animals in more humane ways, and some school employees will have to get training to recognize signs of child abuse.
Other new Pennsylvania laws that take effect, many on New Year's Day, impose tougher penalties for underage drinking. The maximum fine for someone under 21 caught drinking goes from $300 to $500 and climbs to $1,000 for a second offense.
Steeper fines are a welcome improvement, said George Geisler, an officer with the Pennsylvania DUI Association's law enforcement services.
“Drinking is a problem, particularly among some young people. It is a public safety issue. Underage drinking has long-term effect on the development of the brain and often leads to the use of other illegal drugs,” he said.
Still, Geisler said, he is not certain higher fines will curb underage drinking significantly.
Trash haulers will be prohibited from picking up discarded electronics such as computers and televisions.
Residents will have to return the used item to retailers such as Best Buy and RadioShack, which must accept them free of charge, said Bill Klimovich, assistant director of Pittsburgh Public Works Bureau of Environmental Services.
Trash haulers, including the city and private firms such as Waste Management and BFI, must notify customers of the change.
Klimovich said his crews will leave the waste at the curb and a foreman will double-back to let residents know about the law. Residents could face a citation if the trash is not removed after 48 hours.
The animal euthanization law prohibits the use of carbon monoxide gas and drowning and makes it easier for shelters to obtain drugs for more humane methods. Advocates say the animals often are old, young, sick or hurt and not good candidates for gas chamber euthanasia. Some provisions of the animal euthanasia law will be phased in.
“We support new laws that make euthanasia a more humane process for animals,” said Jolene Miklas, a spokeswoman for Animal Friends, an Ohio Township shelter.
“We also support that anyone administering humane euthanasia be properly trained and certified.” The National Animal Control Association offers such training.
Animal Friends supports only a direct injection, Miklas said.
Beginning this year, some school employees will be required to attend training to recognize the warning signs of child abuse, the rules for reporting suspected abuse and what sorts of relationships with children are appropriate.
The law is largely a response to the Penn State sex abuse scandal, said Debra Schilling Wolfe, executive director of the Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Very few states mandate this kind of training. This is the tip of the iceberg but very important,” Wolfe said.
The law should be expanded to require reporting of suspected child abuse to the Child Line hotline operated by the state Department of Public Welfare, she said.
“One of the major failures at Penn State was that people were required to report it up in their institution. We hear anecdotally from teachers that they report to administrators that nothing happens,” Wolfe said. “People need to also be directly mandated to report to ChildLine,”
New restrictions on the state's unemployment compensation fund go into effect, including a $573 cap on maximum weekly benefits that is expected to remain in place until at least 2017.
A law that took effect Dec. 24 allows new games of chance for fundraisers by fire companies and other nonprofits, including 50/50 drawings.
Contractors on public works projects will have to use the federal E-Verify system to check that their employees are legal residents. Another law simplifies voting rules for members of the military and others living overseas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.