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The state legislature could establish a statewide rape-kit tracking system

Matt Rourke

On today’s episode of The Confluence:

The state doesn’t have a program to track rape kits as they’re being processed
(0:00 - 8:10)

Pennsylvania law does not require the tracking of rape kits. The legislature is now considering bills to create a statewide tracking system for rape kits, joining 30 other states that have or are in the process of creating such a system.

Although the Sexual Assault, Testing and Evidence Collection Act identifies a timeline for collecting evidence and notifying law enforcement, each county might notify survivors of sexual assault differently about how the process is going.

“In some locations, victims are receiving notice from law enforcement, in other locations, it's from the rape crisis advocate,” says Donna Greco, public policy and legislative affairs director for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. “In other places, we continue to hear that survivors are waiting and waiting and just not sure what's happening with the evidence or with their case.”

A joint public hearing will be held tomorrow in Phoenixville by the sponsors of the respective House and Senate bills to further highlight the need for a tracking system. The legislature has already passed a bill to approve studying the impact of a tracking system for rape test kits.

Caucus of organizations serving Asian and Pacific Islanders presents its first policy platform
(8:17 - 14:15)

A coalition of organizations serving Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Pennsylvania has created their own AAPI policy platform for the state.

“For our community, we are most interested in language access,” says Lani Mears, president of the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh, which also presented the platform. “We have more and more immigrants coming in with the need to advance their English proficiency. So we are also then needing help with language translations and some of the government documents, policies, procedures.”

Other issues under the platform, in addition to language access, are expanded vote-by-mail access, improvements to education, and efforts to mitigate anti-Asian hate.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 4% of residents in the state identify as Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, which amounts to about 520,000 people.

The state could get money to improve broadband access, but first it has to update its maps of where access is spotty
(14:20 - 22:30)

Pennsylvania could receive up to $1 billion in federal funding to improve broadband access across the state, but one challenge remains: determining where high-speed internet is still inaccessible.

Sascha Meinrath, Palmer Chair in the Telecommunications Department at Pennsylvania State University, says broadband access continues to create issues for communities in both rural parts of the state and certain urban cores.

“For both constituencies, the official maps say that we have universal [broadband access] and I mean, the official maps say[ing] 100% connectivity access in Pennsylvania are obviously wrong and kind of ignore the on-the -ground realities faced by both folks living in our urban cores and across rural Pennsylvania,” says Meinrath.

Meinrath says it’s more likely that 30% to 50% of residents lack consistent access to reliable broadband access.

The Federal Communications Commission will be presenting new maps of broadband access later this year. Municipalities and local governments will have a chance to challenge the map and more accurately point out where access exists, which could affect the amount of federal dollars allocated to improve broadband access in the state.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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