Pa. House positions overhauled statute of limitations bills for another run

Revived Pa. effort to extend statute of limitations in future cases of sex abuse follows a bitter dispute over whether to allow retroactive lawsuits in certain cases.

Capitol Building, Harrisburg. (Kevin McCorry/WHYY)

Capitol Building, Harrisburg. (Kevin McCorry/WHYY)

Two state representatives are setting the stage for a push to change Pennsylvania’s laws governing sexual abuse.

The last time lawmakers attempted it, negotiations crashed after a bitter dispute over whether to allow retroactive lawsuits in certain cases.

Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, has been the key force behind changing statute of limitation laws.

As a teenager, Rozzi was abused by a priest.

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The bill he’s reintroducing would get end the criminal statute of limitations on future sex abuse cases, and loosen age limits for civil suits.

Notably, it doesn’t include the retroactive lawsuit window that tanked talks last year.

Instead, Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Blair, has a second proposal that would amend the constitution to explicitly allow suits in old cases.

“We’re just trying to put together a solution,” Gregory said. “Hopefully this is what will eventually remove that last barrier to get this to the people of Pennsylvania.”

Senate Republicans were the key holdouts on retroactivity — partly due to constitutional concerns, but also because some worry suits stemming from old cases will bankrupt churches.

It’s unclear how they’ll respond.

House Democrats and Republicans, Senate Democrats, Gov. Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and the state Victim Advocate have all supported retroactive lawsuits.

The House quickly positioned Rozzi and Gregory’s bills for committee consideration.

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