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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: May 5, 2017 02:29 PM
From: Senator Scott Martin
To: All Senate members
Subject: Reimbursement for Demonstration Response Costs
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that would shield taxpayers against the additional costs resulting from protests.

Within the last year, protestors gathered on federal land in North Dakota to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, but what they left behind was nearly $40 million in costs to state and local taxpayers. The seven-month long protest:
  • required 331,721 hours of response support;
  • led to the arrests of 761 individuals, 94 percent of which were from out of state;
  • required the removal of 48 million pounds of trash including 44 abandoned vehicles;
  • diverted $4,433,329 in expenses from the North Dakota Highway Patrol’s normal operations and resulted in the agency logging more flight hours than they would typically fly over the course of four years;
  • compelled the North Dakota National Guard to expend 35,412 hours of service and $8,752,232.99 in response costs;
  • resulted in 23 livestock killed or missing and 34 livestock injured; and
  • necessitated law enforcement escorts for school busses
The fundamental right to free speech, assembly and petition is part of the bedrock of democracy and is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I of the Constitution of Pennsylvania. However, it is improper for taxpayers to bear the financial burden for response costs related to illegal or destructive activity that stems from the right to protest on private or public lands.

In addition to remedies currently allowed by law, this legislation would allow for the recovery of costs by holding a person or persons civilly liable for response costs related to a demonstration if the person is convicted for rioting or is a public nuisance under 18 Pa.C.S. § 5501 or §6504, or if the person is involved in hosting the demonstration.

Individuals have a right to protest, and we as leaders in our community have a responsibility to work to ensure that these protests are held peacefully and in a manner that will not burden the local population.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation.