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Pa. Senate unanimously passes Piazza anti-hazing legislation

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman proposes anti-hazing law named after deceased Penn State pledge

Sen. Jake Corman spoke March 23 on the steps of the Centre County Courthouse about proposed anti-hazing legislation that would enact stiffer penalties on those convicted of hazing. The bill has its roots in deceased Penn State pledge Timothy Piazza.
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Sen. Jake Corman spoke March 23 on the steps of the Centre County Courthouse about proposed anti-hazing legislation that would enact stiffer penalties on those convicted of hazing. The bill has its roots in deceased Penn State pledge Timothy Piazza.

The Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday passed Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman's anti-hazing bill, 49-0.

Named in honor of 19-year-old pledge Timothy Piazza, who died in February 2017 as a result of injuries sustained at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on Penn State's campus, the bill proposes creating tiers for hazing offenses.

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Hazing resulting in serious bodily injury or death would be a third-degree felony, which could include fines of up to $15,000 and imprisonment up to seven years. Hazing resulting in bodily injury would be a third-degree misdemeanor, which could include fines of up to $2,500 and imprisonment up to one year. Other hazing would be a summary offense.

It also creates a category of "organizational hazing," where groups, such as a fraternity, sorority or club, could be held to the hazing tiers if the organization "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly" promotes hazing. Organizations could be subject to penalties such as fines or even forfeiture of assets.

An "institutional hazing" category would include places in the state that grant associate or higher academic degrees. Hazing offenses by an institution would be punishable with a fine of up to $5,000. Aggravated hazing by an institution would be punishable with a fine of up to $15,000.

Corman, R-Benner Township, worked with Piazza's family and Penn State in crafting the proposed bill.

Thomas Kline, Piazza family attorney, said in a statement that the family is "gratified" and "encouraged" to see the bill pass the Senate.

They hope that they'll soon be standing alongside Corman, Gov. Tom Wolf and other Pennsylvania leaders when the "landmark" legislation is signed into law, Kline said.

"It will deter misconduct," Jim Piazza said at a press conference unveiling the legislation in March. "It will make college and Greek life safer. It will save lives and prevent serious injuries that we will never know about — but that’s OK. And, it will truly hold men and women who commit the crime of hazing fully accountable."

Corman said Wednesday that he's "proud" to be a part of the legislation, but that all the credit goes to the family.

The Piazzas have taken their pain and channeled it into positive action, he said.

Penn State leaders applauded the vote, according to a university release.

"Penn State has no tolerance for hazing. Hazing is illegal and unacceptable behavior for any student group at Penn State," the release said.

In a statement, Wolf also praised Corman and the Senate for advancing "this important bill to combat hazing and help prevent another tragedy" and urged the House to pass it quickly and get it to his desk for his signature.

The bill is next up for consideration in the state House. Corman said he's not sure when that will happen.

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