HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania lawmakers are promising action on bills to change state law now that a grand jury has released a report on child sexual abuse by priests and others in six of the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses.
Democrats and Republicans are pushing for bills to eliminate time limits on prosecution and civil lawsuits in child sexual abuse cases, but there are major differences that, in years past, have prevented those bills from becoming law.
The statute of limitations for prosecution of child sex crimes currently expires when the victim turns 50.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati has introduced Senate Bill 261 to eliminate the time limit. House Majority Leader Dave Reed praised the bill Tuesday and said, “We expect to schedule Senate Bill 261 for a vote in the fall.”
Berks County Democratic Rep. Mark Rozzi, who was sexually abused by a priest as a boy, is against the bill because it would apply only to new criminal cases.
“I didn’t support it last session, won’t support it this session,” Rozzi said. “It’s a very weak bill.”
Rozzi’s proposal, House Bill 612, would provide a two-year window in which older victims could sue abusers and institutions after the time limit on civil cases expired. The law currently gives child sex abuse victims 12 years to sue once they turn 18.
“That two-year window of opportunity must be in the legislation or I will block it from moving forward,” Rozzi said.
House Judiciary Chair Ron Marsico has introduced bills eliminating the statute of limitations in the past but he’s been against any retroactivity, saying such a provision “would simply give false hopes to victims because it would later be declared unconstitutional by the courts.”
“These representatives and senators who are pretending to be Supreme Court justices need to stop and let the courts do their job,” Rozzi said.