Emergency sex abuse amendment must clear hurdles in Pa. legislature

WHTM-TV - ABC 27 [Harrisburg PA]

March 16, 2021

By Dennis Owens


Sex abuse victims still have a shot at justice even after their statute of limitations has run out. Pennsylvania lawmakers are working on an emergency constitutional amendment this week.

The amendment would correct the Wolf Administration’s failure to properly advertise the original amendment.

But is a clerical error an amendment-worthy emergency? Critics say no. Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks), a clergy sex abuse survivor, says otherwise.

“I have known many victims of childhood sex abuse who have committed suicide, who have become alcoholics who have become drug addicts. This is a serious threat to our commonwealth,” Rozzi said.

And a threat to the amendment, according to Rozzi, is language inserted by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to remove sovereign immunity. Lisa Baker is the chair of the state Senate judiciary committee.

“We clarified that if you’re a teacher at parochial school or teacher at public school you’ll be treated the same,” Senator Lisa Baker (R-20th District) said.

Rozzi calls the change a poison pill that would render it unconstitutional and he’s pointing fingers at who pushed it.

“It seems like right now the Catholic Conference and the Insurance Federation have more influence on the Senate than the victims,” Rozzi said.

The Catholic Conference and Insurance Federation deny involvement but declined to comment. Baker did not.

“I’m not beholden to anybody,” Baker said.

State Rep. Jim Gregory (R-Blair), also an abuse survivor, isn’t playing the blame game. The clock’s ticking and lawmakers need to get it done by March 25 to have a chance.

“We’re gonna work real hard to pass this and get it on the ballot for May 18 for the people to finally say it’s time for victims to have their justice in a civil court,” Gregory said.

The lawmakers remind that they’re trying to fix what the Wolf Administration broke, by failing to advertise the original amendment.

“It’s a colossal failure it is not a minor mistake,” Baker said.

Remember an emergency amendment requires two-thirds votes in both chambers. It’s unclear if the numbers are there.