Nov. 21, 2019
– Responding to the voices of victims held silent for too long, the House swiftly acted today to send a package of bills to strengthen and support victims of childhood sexual abuse to the governor’s desk.
“Victims often feel helpless to speak up against their perpetrator; we as a Commonwealth should never add to that feeling,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler said. “This package of bills ensures victims can always feel empowered to step forward to hold their attackers responsible. I applaud efforts of members from both sides of the aisle to bring forward a package that is the best interest of all Pennsylvanians.”
The House acted on all of the recommendations from the statewide grand jury investigation into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in the spring. This week the Senate made technical amendments which were concurred in the House on Thursday.
The four bills in the package include:
• House Bill 963
, sponsored by Rep. Jim Gregory (R-Blair), would amend the state Constitution’s provisions regarding the statute of limitations. Specifically, the bill proposes to amend Section 11 of Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution (known as the “Remedies Clause”) providing a two-year window for anyone for whom a statutory limitations period has expired to commence action arising from childhood sexual abuse.
• House Bill 962
, sponsored by Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks), would also address the state’s statute of limitations law by amending the crimes code to provide a prospective extension of the statute of limitations for commencing a civil action arising from childhood sexual abuse, eliminating the statute of limitations for criminal offenses of childhood sexual abuse, and waiving the defense of sovereign immunity in childhood sexual abuse claims for damages caused by actions or omissions constituting negligence.
• House Bill 1051
, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery), would amend the Child Protective Services Law to increase the penalties for mandated reporters who continue to fail to report suspected child abuse and broadens the “continuing course of action” provision.
• House Bill 1171
, sponsored by Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne), would prohibit the use of nondisclosure agreements that prevent victims of childhood sexual abuse from disclosing the name of a person suspected of childhood sexual abuse or cooperating with law enforcement investigations into child sexual abuse claims.
The bills represent a multi-year effort by the House to establish reforms that ensure perpetrators of child sexual abuse can always be brought to justice and build upon previous efforts including abolishing all statutes of limitations on civil and criminal cases of child sex abuse.
House Bills 962, 1051 and 1171 all await the governor’s signature, while House Bill 963, which would amend the state Constitution, requires passage in two consecutive legislative sessions and approval by the voters in a referendum.
Representative Bryan Cutler
100th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Mike Straub