After years of delays and administrative mistakes, legislation giving victims of childhood sexual abuse legal recourse against their abusers passed the House Friday. The measure, championed by House Speaker Mark Rozzi, now heads to the Senate where it faces pushback from Republicans.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a pair of bills during a special session on Friday, giving long-delayed relief for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. But the legislation faces an uncertain future as it heads to the GOP-controlled Senate.
The Democrat-majority House voted 161-40 to pass a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide a two-year window for victims of child sexual abuse otherwise barred by the current statute of limitations to file civil claims against their abuser and any institution that covered it up. If passed by the Senate, the amendment could go before voters as soon as November.
They also voted 134-67 to pass House Bill 2 which would immediately change state law to temporarily open a two-year window for childhood sexual assault victims to file civil lawsuits if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Josh Shapiro. The bill was introduced by House Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) who has fought vigorously for the lawsuit window and has spoken openly about being sexually abused by a priest as a child.
“This has been a tumultuous time in the House, and that is OK and normal during times of transition,” Rozzi said to the full chamber after voting concluded. “But despite our procedural bickering, at the end of the day, when it was time to be there for victims, the House once again came together in a bipartisan way.”
Both bills face challenges in the state Senate.
Last month the Senate passed its own amendment for childhood sexual assault victims but tied it with two other proposed amendments on voter ID requirements and limiting the governor’s veto power — both of which Democrats oppose. Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) said the Senate has completed its duty on the matter and will not consider it again.
At a news conference after passing the two bills, Rozzi called on the Senate to take up the pieces of legislation.
“It’s time for the Senate to take a vote and to give the survivors of the commonwealth what they so deserve,” Rozzi said. “We have three branches of government for a reason. Let the courts decide whether it’s constitutional or not.”