JANUARY 31, 2017
by Maria Panaritis and Angela Couloumbis, STAFF WRITERS
Leaders of the Pennsylvania Senate on Monday introduced a bill to extend the amount of time that future victims of child sexual abuse would have to sue or prosecute their attackers, reviving a controversial measure that led to a legislative standoff before it collapsed late last year.
The bill, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, seeks to eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for prospective cases of child sexual abuse and would allow future victims to sue their attackers at any age. Currently, victims may sue only for 12 years after their 18th birthday.
Scarnati’s bill excluded the one provision that victim advocates and prosecutors have sought for more than a decade and that recently led to a pitched legislative battle in Harrisburg: a change that would allow victims of past abuse to sue for what happened to them many years ago. That was the centerpiece of a bill passed by the House last year and that vanished in the Senate at Scarnati’s urging amid lobbying by the Catholic Church and the insurance industry.
Scarnati last year backed a version that would not allow retroactive application of the civil statute of limitations for victims up to the age of 50. Scarnati said the bill he put forth Monday replicated the one that died after the House declined to act on it. He said he does not support allowing people to sue for decades-old abuse because of concerns it would violate the state constitution.
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