Mark Rozzi denied permission to address Senate panel voting on child sex crime law; Senate panel pulls bill

| “A state House lawmaker who has become the defacto leader in the General Assembly for an effort to reform child sex crime laws has asked a Senate panel to invite him to its voting meeting for a proposed legislation that would reform the law.”  | 

| 6/21/16 | Ivey DeJesus | pennlive.com |

UPDATE: The Senate Judiciary Committee was set to vote on House Bill 1947 on Wednesday but pulled the hearing, which was set for 2 p.m. This report has been updated to reflect the information.

Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) on Monday sent Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a letter in which writes:

“As the maker of the revival amendment that was the subject of last Monday’s Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, I respectfully request to be invited to the voting meeting on House Bill 1947 in order to address the committee on the merits of my amendment as to the intent and effect on House Bill 1947.”

In an email to PennLive, a spokesman Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), noted general procedural policy that only the prime sponsor of the legislation be invited to address the committee at a voting meeting.

“Representative Rozzi is welcome to submit written remarks to the committee, and Senator Greenleaf will disseminate them to the committee members in advance of the meeting and make them part of the official record,” said Aaron Zappia, spokesman for Greenleaf.

House Bill 1947 was sponsored in the House by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin).

The Senate, which returns to session on Wednesday, had advertised its intention to vote on the bill but pulled the hearing sometime around 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

The committee last week held a hearing on the bill, inviting a number of expert witnesses to testify on the legal viability of the bill. The bill, which would eliminate criminal statutes on most child sex crimes going forward, would also amend civil statutes, including retroactively extending the window of opportunity for victims to file claims up until age 50. That limit is now set at 30.

Of the five experts who testified last week before the Senate panel, four argued that the the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits the General Assembly from retroactively altering expired statutes of limitations.

Rozzi, who was sexually abused by a priest as a teenager, has in recent years led a mounting effort to reform the state child sex crimes laws to expand time parameters to allow victims whose legal rights have expired to seek legal recourse. Rozzi, whose statute of limitations had expired by the time he was ready to come forth about his abuse, has argued, along with other victims and advocates that child sex abuse is so traumatic most victims require a lifetime before they are ready to share their stories.

This spring, Rozzi led a successful effort in the House to pass HB1947. The bill passed with a 180-15 vote.

At the conclusion of last week’s hearing, Greenleaf told members of the media that he would invite anyone who wanted to testify before the committee to do so.

Greenleaf has long promised to give the bill a fair look.

House Bill 1947 – should it pass the Senate and proceed to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk – would put Pennsylvania among the ranks of states that have amended laws to protect victims – even past ones. It would go into effect 60 days after being signed by the governor.

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