Monday, June 20, 2016

The great House Bill 1947 debate

Welcome to summer! And it is going to feel like it today as we break into the 90s. Don't look for me to complain, remember I'm that odd duck who actually likes this kind of steamy, soupy weather.

Speaking of heat, here in Pennsylvania House Bill 1947 continues to put heat on legislators in Harrisburg.

If you're not aware, House Bill 1947 is the legislation that would extend the window for victims of child sexual abuse to file civil actions against their abusers. Right now victims have until age 30 to bring action. House Bill 1947 would extend that to age 50. It also would lift the statute of limitations to bring criminal charges in such cases.

As you might expect, the law is being vigorously opposed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

I spent part of my Father's Day on the radio with my lead Sunday columnist, Christine Flowers, debating the issue as well as the reaction of several Delaware County state reps who are feeling the heat after voting in favor of the measure.

There are two major problems with the bill as it is proposed. One, because of the state constitution and the nation of "sovereign immunity," it does not treat victims of abuse in public institutions the same way as it does those in private ones, such as the church or parochial schools.

There also is the question of whether it is even constitutional to go back today and make a statute applicable to someone when they were not subject to it at the time of the alleged offense.

This week Bruce Castor, the new solicitor general in Kathleen Kane’s attorney general office, testified before the state Senate Judiciary Committee that he believed the “retroactivity” language in the bill, going back and making people liable now for something they were not liable for at the time, is clearly unconstitutional.

Just as clearly, Christine and I come at this from different perspectives, in particular when it comes to the complaints by some reps that they have been singled out by the church.

Rep. Nick Miccarelli, R-162, actually had his name dropped casually into the church bulletin at St. Rose of Lima in Eddystone with a reminder for parishioners that he voted in favor of the legislation. There is no vote scheduled as yet in the Senate.

This one is only going to get hotter, and we'll keep tabs on it.

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