Pa. Lawmaker wants answers following Dept. of State’s failure to advertise child sex abuse survivor law

This Week in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — An “honest mistake” and human error are words former Department of State leaders used to describe its failure to advertise a constitutional amendment that would open a two-year window for child sex abuse survivors to file civil suits against their attackers.

The debacle created a potential two-year setback for the law.

For bill sponsor Rep. Jim Gregory (R, Blair County) “setback” is putting it mildly, but for a law this important, he’s got nothing but time.

“I did not get into this job and people did not send me here — no matter what the issue is — to just move on,” he said.

Since he couldn’t move on, he got on the turnpike and drove through the snow, straight to Acting Secretary Veronica Degraffenreid’s office.

“I just wanted her to actually be able to do it in person and see my face,” Gregory said.

He came as both a lawmaker and a survivor. Gregory was abused by two of his peers as a boy.

He said Degraffenreid gave an appreciated apology, but he’s still looking for an explanation.

“It would not appear to me that it would take very long to find out who made this mistake and then to advance and make sure those folks are held accountable,” Gregory said.

We reached out to all the involved agencies. A spokesperson for Gov. Wolf provided the following statement.

“The governor has asked the Pennsylvania Office of State Inspector General to review the situation and make additional recommendations to improve the department’s process for handling constitutional amendments.”

They also indicated that the Governor would release a full report on the findings.

“It’s not just about this one. There will be other constitutional amendments that we have to make sure that we haven’t found a tactic that someone could use to prevent something from going forward,” Gregory said.

In the meantime, Gregory plans to use his voice until he’s sure the mistake won’t happen again.

“No matter what the issue is — as legislators — if we’re worth our salt, we’re not going away. We are going to continue to fight for people because that’s what they sent us to do,” Gregory said.

As for the bill itself, lawmakers are exploring the option of using an emergency constitutional amendment, which could possibly allow the bill to still appear on the Primary Ballot in May.

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