HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — On Tuesday, state lawmakers in the Senate voted to pass a constitutional amendment out of committee. The amendment would lift the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases for two years, allowing child sex abuse victims to sue their abusers.
The amendment passed as part of Senate Bill 1, which also included amendments on voter identification and legislative review of regulations. The bill passed committee 11 to 6, with all Democrats voting against it. The y are upset the sexual abuse amendment is linked to the other two.
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A local think tank is also highlighting the potential financial cost to taxpayers of the sexual abuse amendment.
The report from the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy, released Tuesday, focuses on the cost of potential lawsuits related to sexual abuse cases in public schools. It says that number could go as high as $32.5 billion, but the report authors said this does not mean they are taking a position on the amendment itself.
“Susquehanna and Dr. Zaleski do not support and we do not oppose any legislation,” senior fellow Charles Greenawalt said. “We’re just trying to determine what the cost of different policy options might be, so our policymakers can have that information on hand.”
Greenawalt and Peter Zaleski, who researched the report, said they used national and state data to estimate the number of lawsuits which could be filed and the cost to taxpayers. Their estimate put that number anywhere from $5 billion to $32.5 billion dollars.
House Democrats do not want to hear it. The House Democratic Caucus released a statement blasting delays in passing the amendment.
“Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have endured years of trauma only to have their opportunity for justice delayed time and again. House Bill 14 passed with overwhelming support from both parties in both chambers in 2021; denying these brave survivors justice and prolonging their trauma based on the broad assumptions and imprecise calculations about future costs is unnecessarily cruel.“House Democratic Caucus
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The office of Senate President Pro Tempore, Republican Kim Ward, said the amendment does take cost into account because voters will get to choose whether it is worth the money.
Kathryn Robb, executive director of CHILD USAdvocacy, said the cost is not limited to lawsuits.
“Social services, law enforcement…all these bear the burden,” she said.
She wants to shift the cost away from taxpayers and survivors to perpetrators, but she still supports the amendment, saying legislation suspending the statute of limitations gives survivors a path to heal.
“Victims have a right to justice and accountability and healing, and I think that taxpayers shouldn’t be bearing the brunt of this financially,” she said.
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The amendment, as part of Senate Bill 1, is expected to soon pass the full Senate. It will then go to the House. If passed, the amendments will be on the ballot for voters in May.