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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says the clock is running for state senators to approve, as the House did, reforms to allow survivors of child sex abuse, even from decades ago, to sue their abusers.
“Senators have a very stark choice,” Shapiro told KDKA political editor Jon Delano. “Will they do what the House did on a bi-partisan basis and stand with survivors, or will they side with the lobbyists? The lobbyists for the Catholic church, the lobbyists for the insurance companies who are trying to defeat these responsible reforms recommended by the Grand Jury.”
Almost everyone agrees the statute of limitations against criminal charges should be abolished, but the issue of civil lawsuits is controversial.
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Current law allows survivors of child sex crimes to sue until age 30 for monetary damages.
The state House bill changes that to age 50, and that’s not controversial.
But a House-approved amendment to give all survivors a one-time two-year window to file civil lawsuits is opposed by the Senate’s top Republican, Joe Scarnati.
Rather than let juries decide dollar awards, Scarnati wants the church and insurance companies to set up a special limited fund to pay victims, an approach the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has embraced.
“This so-called commission or fund, it’s not real,” Shapiro said.
Scarnati and Senate majority leader Jake Corman are blocking Senate consideration of the two-year window bill, and Shapiro says it’s a test of whom senators work for — survivors or the Catholic church.
“I think for so long it has come down to an institution trying to protect its own interests above the people that they are supposed to serve,” Shapiro said.
With only four legislative days left later this month, Democratic Senate leader Jay Costa says he’s working on a compromise, but no deal yet.