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Proposed Constitutional Changes to Protect Children
August 12, 2003

In November, Pennsylvanians will be asked to vote on two changes to the Constitution of Pennsylvania that impact children who have been victimized. The first question addresses the right of defendants to confront their accusers “face to face,” which is protected by the Constitution of Pennsylvania. In supporting the first ballot question, voters would “remove from the Pennsylvania Constitution the right of accused persons to confront the witnesses against them ‘face to face,’ so that the so that the Pennsylvania General Assembly may enact laws or the Pennsylvania Supreme Court may adopt rules that permit children to testify in criminal proceedings outside the physical presence of the accused.”

Support of the second question would “…give the General Assembly authority to make laws regarding the way that children may testify in criminal proceedings, including the use of videotaped depositions or closed-circuit television. The purpose of permitting children to testify by such means is to allow them to testify outside the physical presence of the accused.” The ballot questions are necessitated by the recent passage of SB 55, proposing two separate amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution within two consecutive legislative sessions (the previous bill – from the 2001-02 legislative session – was SB 211).

It will be important between now and November to educate the general public about the existence of the questions and their importance to Pennsylvania’s children. PCPA and its member agencies can assist in this process by assuring that staff members and families in service are aware of the ballot questions and what supporting them will mean to the ability to impact child protection and safety. More information is available on this issue, including the texts of the ballot questions as published in newspapers August 1, by contacting Kris Ericson at the Association.

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