Log In

Reset Password

Board approves discrimination bill


Special to The Press

“Law is always best when it is most simple to understand, and it’s applied fairly and most evenly,” stated Commissioner Ron Beitler during the Feb. 14 Lehigh County board meeting.

“And I think a law that acknowledges everyone’s universal human rights is better than something that relies on membership in special categories defined by the government.”

Beitler was speaking during a discussion on two bills, Bill 2024-03 and Bill 2024-04.

Both dealt with how best to legislate what defines discrimination, as well as provide a means for any Lehigh Valley resident to come forward with discrimination claims.

Commissioner Jeffrey Dutt started the discussion by withdrawing his sponsorship of the second bill.

This bill not only would have established countywide nondiscrimination for employment, housing, education, health care and public accommodations, but would have also authorized the Human Relations Commission to investigate and enforce complaints of discrimination.

“Based on how Bill 2024-03 is constructed and what it does, I will not be able to support it,” Dutt added.

Commissioner Dan Hartzell, who supported Dutt’s bill, spoke of his own concerns with Bill 2024-03, which allows for the creation of a Human Relations Commission to investigate claims of discrimination.

“I might be a swing vote to make this veto proof,” Hartzell said. “And, I’m going to provide that vote.”

Hartzell explained his concerns of what could happen, especially if the system becomes overwhelmed with cases of alleged discrimination.

“The proponents say there aren’t a lot of false complaints,” Hartzell said. “Let’s find out and see because I think good can come of this.

“The stop sign will be there and some people who are discriminated against will be helped.”

Commissioner Antonia Pineda cited too many concerns, especially the power of the Human Relations Commission, for his opposition to the bill.

“This is something I think should be left to the courts,” Pineda explained.

“For the growth of Lehigh County, this is needed,” Commissioner April Reddick told the board. “This, the bill, actually covers everything.”

Bill 2024-03 passed 6-3, with Beitler, Dutt and Pineda voting against it.

In other matters, the board gave final approval to a grant for Lehigh Valley YMCA for the Allentown Branch’s Warming Station to receive $75,000 per year, for the next five years.

Beitler made the point this is a one time gift and more will have to be done looking forward, a point reiterated by Commissioner Jon Irons.