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Pennsylvania Government Seeks Relief for Sexual Abuse Survivors Spotlight PA

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HARRISBURG — In what is likely one of the last acts of his tenure, Gov. Tom Wolfe Asked The Pennsylvania legislature will hold a special session on Monday to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow adult victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue their perpetrators.

Newly-minted State House Speaker Mark Rozzi responded Friday that he vowed to suspend all other legislative action until the matter is resolved.

The request ended a week of chaos inside the Capitol, and just days after the new session of Congress began, Republicans called the move unnecessary and listened to Wolfe’s request. Further conflict arose as it seemed unlikely.

In a statement, Wolfe said his request was “an important step to enable the General Assembly to focus on this important and potentially life-saving task.”

The Democratic governor said, “No matter how much time has passed, victims should not be denied the opportunity to hold abusers accountable.

The call was immediately supported by Lotzi, a Democrat from Berks County. The Republican-crafted deal gave him the gavel.

Since being elected in 2012, Rozzi has made advocating for child sexual abuse survivors his signature issue. In his statement, he said he would not move other legislation until the General Assembly considered the proposed amendments.

“For the last 10 years, I’ve been fighting this battle as part of an army. A promise has been made. A hope has been given,” said Lotzi, who was raped by a Catholic priest as a teenager. Told. “But time and time again, after all, for one reason or another, justice has been denied.”

Under the state constitution, the governor can call a special session “whenever the public interest deems it necessary.” During that time, Congress can only pass bills related to the requested topics.

Proposed constitutional amendment has broad bipartisan support and legislative leadership by both parties had previously agreed to prioritize final passage of the amendments this year.

But considering it during a special session would take away the power of legislative Republicans to achieve other goals, such as: passage Other constitutional amendments that expand voter ID requirements or limit state regulatory processes.

Consolidating the agenda into one bill is frequently used in the General Assembly to pass controversial policies, and at least one Republican publicly proposed Such deals were part of Rozzi’s rise from backbench to speakership.

Top Republicans in the state House and Senate have issued statements that they prefer to do this work in regular meetings, where they can consider multiple issues at once.

“It is not in the federal best interest to do this work in a special session,” said House Republican Leader Brian Cutler (R-Lancaster).

He said Republicans had already committed to passing the abuse amendment, but “while also addressing other urgent needs that the people of Pennsylvania expect to be addressed in a timely manner. , the ordinary parliament can do this work.”

In a joint statement, Senate Republicans Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and Joe Pittman (R-Ind.) further articulated their priorities.

“It is imperative that we work together to ensure that constitutional amendments to verify voter identity, legislative review of regulations, election audits, and statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse victims can all be presented to voters.” they said.

A proposed special session topic — the two years during which victims of childhood sexual abuse can file a civil lawsuit against the person who harmed them and the agency that protected the abuser — is for survivors. has long been sought after by

Over the past decade, survivors and their allies have called for legislation to open a statutory window and take effect immediately. But Republican leadership in the state Senate, joined by the Catholic Church and insurance industry lobbyists, successfully blocked it, arguing that such a law would be unconstitutional.

Stakeholders have since settled on the idea of ​​sending constitutional amendments to voters as a compromise that sidesteps legality concerns. But such amendments take much longer to pass than legislation. Before being sent to voters for final approval, it must be approved by the General Assembly in the same form at his two consecutive years of General Assembly.

The Compromise Amendment passed the 2019 General Assembly swiftly, almost unanimously. The State Department was unable to promote the legally required amendments before holding the final referendum. “Internal system failure

The Democratic caucuses applauded Wolfe’s call, and Rep. Jim Gregory (R, Blair) was one of Lotzi’s closest Republican supporters and a major proponent of the amendment.

In a statement, Gregory, who was also a victim of child abuse, said he supported the special session to correct “a devastating mistake made two years ago.”

“It’s time for politics. But today, the people of Pennsylvania should realize that Chairman Lotzi is not waiting to reign,” Gregory said.

Wolf requested that the session begin at noon on Monday, January 9th and end by Friday, January 27th.

A spokeswoman for the State Department, which oversees advertising for constitutional amendments, said in an email that the amendments must be passed by the end of January to participate in the May 16 primary vote.

“Additional lead time is required to draft the ballot questions and obtain a plain-language statement from the Attorney General,” the spokesperson said.

Featured PA reporters Katie Meyer and Kate Huangpu contributed to the report.

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https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2023/01/pa-legislature-tom-wolf-mark-rozzi-clergy-abuse-special-session/ Pennsylvania Government Seeks Relief for Sexual Abuse Survivors Spotlight PA

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