(HARRISBURG) – Senator Baker (R-20) issues the following statement and calls for a full investigation into Governor Wolf and his administration’s failure to fulfill their legal responsibility to ensure that a constitutional amendment for statute of limitations reform for child sexual abuse could be presented to voters this May.
“This is a catastrophic and epic failure on the part of Governor Wolf and administration officials responsible for protecting our most vulnerable citizens. This is further tragedy and indignity inflicted on victims of abuse who have already suffered for too long without access to justice or closure. This is heartbreaking from a human standpoint, when so much advocacy and effort is instantly erased.
“A constitutional amendment is a matter of utmost importance and obligation for state government, yet, from the top down, state leadership has inexcusably failed miserably at carrying out the simplest administrative function. There is nothing comparable in our experience. How do you overlook a responsibility that is outlined in the state Constitution? How do you overlook the most monumental of the amendments to be advertised? Legal must review the content of the description of the amendment. Where were they?
“To attempt to call this a mistake is to mischaracterize the gravity of the offense. Few Pennsylvanians are going to settle for any claim of isolated incompetence either. This warrants investigation by law enforcement and scrutiny through legislative hearings. There are many of us who want to know how and when this was uncovered, in addition to why it happened.
“Meanwhile, we have to work with victims, victim advocates, and legislative proponents, especially Representatives Mark Rozzi and Jim Gregory, to determine how to proceed to reach a reasonable and defensible remedy as quickly as possible.”
Background on the constitutional amendment for statute of limitations reform for child sexual abuse:
In order for the constitutional amendment to be presented to voters on the ballot in May, identical language was receiving swift consideration this year, and was almost to the finish line. The Senate Judiciary Committee met last week and unanimously passed Senate Bill 8, and was scheduled to meet this week to consider the House version of the measure, House Bill 14. In addition to the legislature’s duty to pass identical legislation this session, the Department of State had the responsibility to advertise the proposed amendment, which they failed to do, thus negating our work to advance this crucial matter.
Because the bill would amend the state Constitution, it must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved by voters in order to become law. Specifically, the bill will seek to amend Section 11 of Article 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution to create a two-year window for victims to bring civil claims for past abuses. If approved, victims would be permitted to submit a claim in civil court even if the statute of limitations has already expired.
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