PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 30, 2011 — Inspired by state Sen. Anthony H. Williams’ “There Oughta Be a Law!” competition, more than 80 individuals from across the state engaged in civic participation by submitting ideas for new legislation that would make Pennsylvania a better place.
The winning entry was submitted by Nicole Crawford of Philadelphia. She proposed a bill intended to protect against false claims of non-payment on child support by allowing non-custodial parents the right to have their child support payments documented with the state. At present, this can only happen by order of the Domestic Relations Court at the request of the custodial parent.
“There are non-custodial parents, mostly fathers, who are trying to do the right thing but are still being accused of not paying child support,” said Crawford, a former career coach in a welfare-to-work readiness program who was excited to win this contest. “They are trying to do the right thing but they are being abused by the system.”
Crawford’s plan would allow non-custodial parents the right to initiate a child support case in Domestic Relations Court. By allowing a non-custodial parent to file with Domestic Relations, he or she would have the right to a formal support order based on income and circumstance, documented payments, and the right to petition for modification.
“This idea is a common-sense solution that would bring accountability to the system and fairness to the custodial process,” Williams said. “I’m thrilled that Nicole brought this idea to my attention and I’m honored to introduce it as a bill in the state legislature on her behalf.”
Earlier this year Williams asked Pennsylvanians to submit ideas for new laws, and the senator would submit the winning idea as legislation.
The contest was inspired by a cartoon by Al Fagaly and Harry Shorten that was distributed by the McClure Newspaper Syndicate from 1946 until artist Fagaly’s death in 1963. “There Oughta Be a Law!” has also long been a popular catchphrase used to express frustration with the way things are.
Williams received applications from every corner of the state, including a dozen from the 8th Senatorial District. Ideas included offering tax credits to companies that create new jobs in Pennsylvania; eliminating school property taxes; giving legislative redistricting duties to a bipartisan commission or commission of retired judges; and reducing the size of the state legislature.
“There were many worthy ideas that came from concerned citizens across the state, and even a few out-of-state entries,” Williams said. “I was so impressed with the enthusiastic response and the wide range of ideas. Clearly, people care about Pennsylvania and want to see laws in place that will improve our quality of life.”
The senator also selected two entries for honorable mentions.
Velda Hanson Kanney, also from Philadelphia, has suggested an amendment to Senate Bill 1039, a bill that the senator introduced in May of this year. Senate Bill 1039 would reduce the number of individuals not hired due to false information on a criminal background check by requiring that these checks be conducted by the commonwealth, rather than by private companies.
“At Velda’s suggestion, I intend to offer an amendment to the bill that would prohibit disclosure of misdemeanor offenses committed when the applicant was under 21 years of age, as well as misdemeanor offenses by an applicant who has been free of arrest or prosecution for seven years or more,” Williams said.
The other honorable mention goes to Bill Batt from Albany, NY who proposed a program to establish a property tax deferral to provide relief to older Pennsylvania homeowners — without requiring an increase in taxes for other Pennsylvanians.
Crawford, Kanney and Batt will join the senator for a visit to the State Capitol and may be asked to testify on behalf of their bill at a formal Senate hearing.
Williams will hold another contest in 2012. Individuals may enter online at www.senatoranthonyhwilliams.com or call 215-492-2980 for more information.
Follow the progress of these proposals and the rest of the senator’s legislative agenda, and comment on any or all of them, by visiting www.senatoranthonyhwilliams.com and clicking on “Legislation.”