Pa. House hopes to approve final sex abuse reforms by week’s end

Carolyn Fortney, a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of her family's Roman Catholic parish priest as a child, awaits legislation in the Pennsylvania Capitol to respond to a landmark state grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 in Harrisburg, Pa. (Marc Levy/AP Photo)

Carolyn Fortney, a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of her family's Roman Catholic parish priest as a child, awaits legislation in the Pennsylvania Capitol to respond to a landmark state grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 in Harrisburg, Pa. (Marc Levy/AP Photo)

By the end of the week, the state House is hoping to pass every proposal included in last year’s grand jury report on decades of child abuse within the Roman Catholic church.

The measures will then await Senate approval. For some of the provisions, that approval isn’t guaranteed.

The grand jury report gave a number of recommendations, all aimed at stemming abuse and keeping institutions from covering it up.

Lawmakers have been working on them since last year. And on Monday, the three final provisions passed out of committee.

One would remind abuse victims they’re allowed to communicate with law enforcement regardless of confidentiality agreements, and another applies higher penalties in certain cases when a person allows child abuse to continue.

A third would make it easier for caseworkers to access a child’s records without parental consent during abuse investigations.

It passed, but not without pushback from Lancaster County GOP Representative Brett Miller.

“I am definitely in favor of seeing cases expedited, but I think they need to be done with due protection for rights,” Miller said.

The bill’s sponsor, Westmoreland County Democrat Joe Petrarca, argued that the documents are already “obtainable in one form or another. It’s just trying to streamline these processes to give people in [Children and Youth Services] agencies the full picture.”

The bills are expected to pass the full House.

They join two other measures that aim to overhaul statutes of limitations on sex abuse cases.

It’s unclear how the Senate will handle those bills, as they include a controversial measure allowing retroactive lawsuits that the chamber’s leaders have opposed in the past.

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