The state House yesterday unanimously passed a bill designed to give more legal protection to care-dependent people in personal-care homes, including a section on harassment and intimidation. The bill was sent to the Senate.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Don Walko (D., Allegheny), said House Bill 642 would allow prosecutors to file criminal charges of neglect against owners or staff of personal care homes that have three or fewer adults unrelated to the owner. Current state law does not allow criminal charges in such cases. In a news release, Walko said he has been seeking to tighten laws on small personal care homes in Pennsylvania since the 1996 death of 86-year-old Goldie Scherlacher in an unregulated personal care home in Allegheny County.

As The Inquirer reported in February, state oversight of personal-care homes has been lax, and some owners of such homes have been allowed to violate safety rules with impunity. - Inquirer staff