Pa. House approves relief for childhood sexual abuse victims as standalone amendment

By: and - May 22, 2023 5:30 pm
A view of the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (Photo by Amanda Mustard for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star).

A view of the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (Photo by Amanda Mustard for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star).

A standalone constitutional amendment offering a two-year window for survivors to file claims of childhood sexual abuse in civil court saw approval from the Pennsylvania House on Monday, but it’s unlikely to see a necessary vote in the Republican-controlled Senate to reach voters.

Lawmakers in the lower chamber, controlled by a narrow Democratic majority, voted 145-56 to send a gutted version of a three-part constitutional amendment package — now only including the window — back to the Senate, where Republican leadership has said they will not consider the proposal again.

House lawmakers passed the Senate bill without debate.

Senate Republican leadership maintains that the upper chamber fulfilled a promise to pass the proposed window at the beginning of the current legislative session, urging the House to vote on the legislation, designated Senate Bill 1, as originally presented.

In March, Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, and Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, told reporters that the three proposals in the constitutional amendment package reflect top priorities for GOP lawmakers.

“Those constitutional questions were passed by both chambers in previous sessions, and we felt it was important to advance all three of them as quickly as possible,” Pittman said. “And that’s what we did.”

At the time of the chamber vote, Senate Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to divide the proposals into individual bills and table the amendment package.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said his caucus members “unequivocally support” the two-year statutory window, saying that survivors of childhood sexual abuse deserve the opportunity to heal and face their abusers in court.

But just as voters would decide how to vote on each proposal included in the amendment package individually — if the questions make it to the ballot — Democrats wanted to do the same.

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Marley Parish

Marley Parish covered the Senate for the Capital-Star.

Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.