FOUR BILLS are pending in Harrisburg that relate to sex abuse.
Make that six.
Or maybe it's eight.
In the days following the Penn State scandal, many state lawmakers dusted off proposals or created new ones - like Sen. Larry Farnese, who wants state or municipal workers who have been convicted of a sex crime against a minor to lose their government pensions - and in many cases, they have called for the bills to be fast-tracked.
Some of these bills call for tightening requirements for those who witness abuse to report it, and others deal with the statute of limitations for civil and criminal cases on child abuse.
The fact is that Pennsylvania is one state that could use tougher laws on reporting, and revised laws on the statute of limitations.
But the sheer volume of these proposals and the competing news conferences suggests the need for a more organized and strategic approach.
The cynical view is that politicians like to race in to a heated controversy to score political points. (And even more cynically, there's pressure to vote "yes" on any bill related to protecting children from abuse, no matter how effective, simply to avoid future negative campaigning - along the lines of "he voted to give safe haven to sexual predators!")
A less cynical view is that in their ardor for legislating against evil, lawmakers start tripping over each other in their race to join the bandwagon.
The end result is often a hodgepodge of laws that can be less than helpful in addressing the problems they were designed to fix. A cautionary tale is found in Miami, where sex offenders have been forced to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, since overzealous legislation prohibiting them from living near schools basically left the only legally allowable address to be under a bridge.
The solution is not to stop action. But given the scope and seriousness of the problem and how long it's been unaddressed in the Legislature, a wiser approach would be to come up with a series of laws that is more strategic and coherent.
Gov. Corbett, who agrees the process should slow down, should create a bipartisan commission - whose deliberations should be public - that can survey the state's current rules and laws, survey how ours stacks up against other states', and make recommendations for new ones. This approach was used recently in response to the Luzerne County "cash-for-kids" judicial scandal. That commission issued a set of recommendations that lawmakers used as a blueprint for new laws.