Nov. 17, 2021

HARRISBURG – New legislation introduced by Rep. Sue Helm (Dauphin/Lebanon) would help coroners more expediently and efficiently notify the next of kin when encountering a decedent.

House Bill 2088 would provide coroners with greater access to certain records maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and JNET, a secure-access portal maintained by criminal justice agencies in the Commonwealth.

“PennDOT and JNET have records that could be helpful when identifying next of kin for the deceased and when investigating a cause of death. Unfortunately, coroners are sometimes blocked from accessing the very records that would help them. Access through House Bill 2088 would help add another tool to a coroner’s toolbox,” Helm said.

Among the information contained in PennDOT records for designated agencies is driver history, medical information, emergency contact information and vehicle registration details. The bill would require PennDOT to update its driver licensing forms to provide drivers with the option of providing next-of-kin information on their record.

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, a former coroner, said he supports the idea of giving coroners more access to records that would benefit them.

"As a former county coroner, I know Pennsylvania coroners by law must deliver difficult information to families and investigate causes of death. Restoring county coroner access to JNET will ensure accuracy in notification so that family members can be swiftly and accurately informed of the loss of a loved one and the cause of death fully and properly investigated,” Benninghoff said.
House Bill 2088 was referred to the House Transportation Committee.

Representative Sue Helm
104th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jennifer Fitch