Thursday, July 21, 2016

State reps will be in 'Spotlight' this fall on House Bill 1947

On our editorial page today, we noted that while the key language of House Bill 1947 - which would allow victims of child sexual abuse from decades ago to bring civil actions against their tormentors now and up until they turn 50 - may be gone, the man pushing the issue is not.

Not by a long shot.

State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-126, of Berks County, held a rally on the steps of the Basilica SS. Peter & Paul in downtown Philly this week. He was there to deliver a message to Archbishop Charles Chaput and church leaders: He is not going away.

In fact, Rozzi is vowing to put the crucial retroactivity language back into HB 1947 this fall when it comes up again in the house.

House members rather stunningly backed the measure in a 190-15 vote, sending it to the Senate. That's when the archdiocese put on the full-court press. They unleashed the lobbyists in Harrisburg. Chaput sent a letter that was read or handed out at every Mass in every church in the archdiocese, blasting the legislation as a blatant attack on the church and urging the faithful to contact their senators to oppose it.

Some state reps, including several here in Delco who backed the measure, felt some heat from their local parishes. State Rep. Nick Miccarelli, R-162, even found himself singled out in the church bulletin in his parish, St. Rose of Lima in Eddystone, with a gentle reminder to parishioners that he had voted in favor of the bill.

The Senate passed the bill, which will also lift the statute of limitations on criminal charges in child abuse cases, but only for future cases. They stripped out Rozzi's language that would allow past victims of abuse a new opportunity to file against their accusers now, sometimes decades later.

Rozzi's vow to revisit the issue in the fall will put state representatives in a tough spot.

Remember, these guys run for office every two years. Every state rep will be on the ballot in November, meaning just about the same time they could be taking another vote on House Bill 1947.

Don't expect the archdiocese to be silent on the issue.

They've made their position clear.

It will be interesting to see how many state reps continue to stand with Rozzi and the victims of abuse.

The movie 'Spotlight' put the issue of child sexual abuse in the national headlines. House Bill 1947 will put our representatives in the 'spotlight' this fall.

We'll be watching. So will the rest of the state.

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