Call Pa. Senate on Sex-Abuse Bill - Today!

By Ronnie Polaneczky
Philadelphia Daily News [Pennsylvania]
November 21, 2006

I Swear to God, yesterday's shameful attempts to derail sex-abuse legislation from a vote in the Pennsylvania Senate makes me think it's time we elected some 10-year-olds to state office and gave them voting power.

If we had a few kids in the Capitol, Senate Bill 1054 would've passed by now.

But thanks to some last-minute, wrongheaded and disgraceful dissembling yesterday on the merits of the measure, the Senate was forced to postpone a vote on it until today.

The Senate may opt not to vote on the bill at all. Or the bill may get so buried under new amendments that no legislator would feel comfortable giving it the "yes" vote it deserves.

And that would kill this unbelievably important bill, since today is the last day of the state's two-year legislative session.

Here's the good news: It's not too late to press the Senate into doing the right thing, the same way the House did two weeks ago in approving the bill by an astonishing 191-to-1 vote.

But here's the catch: There's just one day to do it.

Which is today.

I'll tell you how. But first let me tell you why SB 1054 is so important:

• It would require those charged with caring for children to report suspected abuse, regardless of whether the child himself reports the abuse in person.

(Astoundingly, under current law, if a child's parents, not the child himself, report the abuse, the supervisor is under no legal obligation to take action.)

• It would hold accountable supervisors and employers who place kids in the care of those known to be dangerous to children.

(Such a law would hold accountable not only bishops who move priest perpetrators from parish to parish, but, say, legislative leaders who do nothing to protect teenage interns from known sexual weirdos holding office on the leader's watch.)

• And it would give victims of childhood sex-abuse more time to bring charges against their abusers.

(The new law would extend the age cutoff from 30 to 50.)

There have been arguments aplenty that this last point would open accused abusers to decades-old charges that could be impossible to defend.

But that argument is specious, since the burden would still be on the prosecution to provide good, solid evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

These provisions could finally be made into laws that would protect the youngest among us, if we urge the Senate, right now, to vote yes on SB 1054, without amendment.

Here's whom to bug:

• Outgoing Senate leaders David Brightbill (717-787-5708, and Robert Jubelirer (717-787-4712, may be lame ducks, but their votes still count. Urge them to burnish their legacy with a "yes" vote. As for the Senate's new top dogs, let them know that our children are depending on their righteous leadership:

• President pro tem Joseph Scarnati (717-787-7084,; Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (717-787-4712,; Majority Whip Jane Clare Orie (717-787-6538,; and Appropriations chair Gibson Armstrong (717-787-6535,

• While you're at it, drop a line of thanks to Sen. John Pippy (717-787-5839,, who, with House Rep. Dennis O'Brien (717-787-5689,, has been an indefatigable champion of this important bill.

And if you're still not sure whether this bill deserves a "yes" vote, here's an exercise that might help you decide:

You know how Christians often ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" as a reminder to act in a moral manner of which Jesus would approve?

In the case of SB 1054, ask, instead, "How would a 10-year-old vote?"

Suddenly, the answer seems crystal-clear.

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