It was a good day last Wednesday when the full PA House passed overwhelmingly HB 1947. While the bill did not include all we had wanted and had worked for, it does:
But for HB 1947 to become law it has two more steps to go through:
The House has sent the bill to the Senate, where, once they reconvene after the primary elections on 5/9, it will likely be sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee where its fate is uncertain.
FACSA had a meeting with the committee chair, Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, over a year ago. At that time he was not in support of any legislation that opened a civil window that would allow victims, no matter how long ago the abuse happened, to file a civil suit against the perpetrator, or those who may have covered up the crime. Without support of the chair, this bill could languish in his committee much like it lanquished for almost a decade in the House Judiciary Committee.
Once again, we are asking you and all those you can marshal into action, to do what you can to help move this bill through the state Senate.
Thanks so much for whatever you can do to help achieve #SOLReform.
Senate Judiciary Committee Members
John Rafferty Jr.
Joseph Scarnati III
Richard Alloway II
John Eichelberger Jr.
Lawrence Farnese Jr.
John Sabatina Jr.
As anticipated, Rep. Ron Marsico, majority chair of the PA House Judiciary Committee, introduced HB 1947 on Monday 4/4/2016. The bill was immediately referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration. Yesterday, 4/5/2016, the House Judiciary Committee discussed, amended and voted the bill out of the committee to the full House for consideration.
As it currently stands, the proposed bill eliminates the criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse, sexual assault and rape if the victim is under 18 at the time of the offense. It extends the civil statute of limitations for the same offenses until the age of 50. What was added as an amendment yesterday provides for a state sovereign immunity waiver in situations where there is gross negligence. That means that any group or institution (public or private) that is "grossly negligent" in handling child sex abuse cases will be liable for prosecution.
The House will likely look at this amended bill next Monday 4/11/2016. If it is not passed on Monday, the House will not be in session until after the PA Primary elections at the end of April.
CBS Philly Report: PA House Committee Advances Child Sex Abuse Statute Of Limitations Bill
By Ivey DeJesus | email@example.com
April 05, 2016
Pennsylvania public schools - its districts and personnel - are for the most part immune from civil lawsuits.
It has for decades been a sticking point with the Catholic Church, which, under public and legal scrutiny for harboring known predator priests, has pointed to the Commonwealth's sovereign immunity as a double standard in its argument against reforming laws.
On Tuesday, a House panel attached an amendment that would waive that special immunity to the state in cases of child sexual abuse to a bill that would reform the very law protecting victims.
Reforming sex crimes laws
House committee advances reform legislation to the full membership for vote. Advocates vow to introduce amendments.
House Bill 1947, approved by a near-unanimous vote and forwarded to the House for a full vote, would abolish all statutes of limitations on sex crimes, in particular those perpetrated on children.
The bill, sponsored by the committee's chairman Ron Marsico, (R-Dauphin), would also extend the statute of limitations on civil cases to age 50.
For victims advocates who have been for more than a decade trying to change a state law to broaden victims' rights the bill has a double-edge.
Many welcome it as a first step, but bemoan its caveats.Read more...
By Dave Sutor | The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA
Legislation, supported by state Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, that would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution in future child sexual abuse cases and raise the limit to age 50 in civil cases passed through the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
House Bill 1947 will next go to the full House for consideration.
"It needs to be done," said Barbin, a member of the Judiciary Committee.
"If we're going to do it, it needs to be done right and be done for everybody. I'm very thankful that we moved it through committee."
Statutes of limitations have come to the local forefront, since, in March, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General released a grand jury report, alleging the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona–Johnstown carried out a decades-long coverup to shield at least 50 priests and other religious leaders accused of sexually abusing children.
However, due to the statutes, charges were only able to be filed against three priests from the Third Order Regular, Province of the Immaculate Conception, who allegedly let Brother Stephen Baker remain at Bishop McCort High School even though they reportedly knew about allegations of sexual abuse made against him.
Since the grand jury information was released, the attorney general has called for abolishing the statutes. Currently, victims who were under the age of 18 when the abuse occurred can file civil charges until age 30. Criminal charges can be brought until age 30 for individuals born before Aug. 27, 2002. That limit moves to age 50 for alleged victims born after Aug. 27, 2002.
"We believe the grand jury's findings show there is a great need for reforms that will aid victims of sexual abuse," said Jeffrey Johnson, assistant press secretary for Attorney General Kathleen Kane. "We would certainly like to see this legislation continue to move forward."
The legislation includes two amendments put forth by Barbin, who represents the 71st Legislative District. They would waive immunity for state and local entities, such as city governments, that display gross negligence in failing to deal with a child sexual abuser within their organizations.
"The bottom line is that the two amendments say we're going to apply this to everybody," Barbin said.
The new law, if adopted, would apply to future allegations.
Some legislators, including state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, wanted to not only eliminate the statutes of limitations, but also create a time period during which alleged victims could bring charges for incidents that occurred in the past. However, there was no retroactive component to House Bill 1947, which was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Majority Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin.Read more...
By Ivey DeJesus | firstname.lastname@example.org
April 01, 2016
PennLive has learned that Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Lower Paxton Twp., will on Monday introduce his own legislation aimed at reforming the statute of limitations. Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Marsico reportedly was set to consider another bill, which would have eliminated all statutes. (Pa. House website)
A bill that would have eliminated criminal and civil statutes of limitation on sex crimes going forward will not be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee next week.
Instead, Autumn Southard, spokeswoman for committee chairman Rep. Ron Marsico, on Friday told PennLive that the Dauphin County Republican planned to introduce his own legislation on Monday. That legislation will likely eliminate criminal statute of limitation, she said.
Southard said changes to the civil components of the law could be part of Marsico's legislation, but the specifics are not clear. She said committee members were discussing the specifics.
"We'll know Monday the specifics of that portion of the bill," she said.Read more...