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Rep. Conklin Appointed Leader of Children & Youth Committee

by on March 25, 2015 6:00 AM

State representative Scott Conklin is moving up in the world.

The fifth-term representative for State College and the surrounding area is now the Democratic chairman of the Children and Youth Committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Conklin sees this an opportunity to do some good, both at home and across Pennsylvania.

“There have been some wounds opened up here over the last few years, so hopefully this is a chance to make sure those kinds of things never happen again,” Conklin says.

During his tenure as a Centre County Commissioner before his election to the state house, Conklin says he worked closely with the Children and Youth Services office. He says that experience gave him insight into the problems Pennsylvania youth face, and has prepared him for his new role.

In a statement, Democratic leader Frank Dermody says Conklin is the “natural choice” to lead the committee’s Democrats, in part due to his service as a county commissioner and his track records in the legislature.

Conklin explains that every bill in the legislature must pass though a committee before it stands a chance of being passed into law – making his committee the frontline for protecting Pennsylvania children. Once the legislature goes back into session next week, Conklin expects no shortage of new bills to research, review and debate.

While he looks forward to reviewing new legislation, Conklin says he expects one of his first big challenges will be an existing law. A recently-enacted law requires anyone who works with children to go through a background check and fill out a stack of paperwork for the state.

Conklin says this is an appropriate safety measure, but he believes the wording is vague and overly broad – which can cause headaches for employers, school and university administrators and parents.

“If a parent chaperones a field trip, is that parent responsible to go through all the paperwork just to chaperone their child to Hershey park?” Conklin asks hypothetically, demonstrating how the law is unclear. “… One of the problems this can create for school districts and universities is that they not only have to think of the safety of the children, but they also to have use this due diligence to make sure they don’t break any laws.”

Conklin says another focus will be laws that encourage open conversation and education on the warning signs of sexual abuse. If children know what’s inappropriate – and they know that they have the right to stop something that makes them uncomfortable – then they have the tools to be an advocate for themselves in their own lives. 

“I want to keep our kids safe,” Conklin says. “That’s type of legislation I’m going to put through.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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