Bucks County, PA- February 28, 2023 – Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) joined his Democratic colleagues in the State Senate to call on Senate Republican leadership to bring justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse, by passing legislation to open a two-year window for victims to bring claims on assaults that have expired the statute of limitations.
He issued the following statement:
“The time has come at long last to open wide the door to justice for the victims of childhood sexual abuse. The State Senate can do just that right now by passing either HB 1 or HB 2. House Bill 1 would amend the State Constitution to allow for the two-year look back for claims that are presently time barred. House Bill 2 would do the same thing as a simple statutory enactment. While we believe that a new statute would withstand a constitutional challenge and represents a much faster path to justice, we support amending the constitution if that is what the Republican majority continues to insist on. But we need to do it now.”
“Senate Republicans passed the language amending the constitution in January but coupled it with two unrelated proposed amendments: one allowing voter ID that was so poorly drafted that even its authors could not explain it, and the other permitting the legislature to override executive-branch regulations. Victims should not be held hostage to Senate Republicans’ political agenda on those issues. They have nothing to do with granting victims access to the courts.”
“The time for debate has long passed. Let’s get these bills passed.”
On Friday, February 24th, the House of Representatives passed the constitutional amendment, House Bill 1, by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 161Y-40N. Afterwards, they passed House Bill 2, the statutory change, by a vote of 134Y-67N, in a similarly bipartisan vote.
Watch the full Senate Democratic Caucus’ press conference here.
View the text of House Bill 1 here.
View the text of House Bill 2 here.
HARRISBURG, PA – February 27, 2023 – Today, Senate Democrats held a press conference calling for the swift and bipartisan passage of HB1 and HB2, which would open a Window to Justice for survivors of child sexual abuse.
“The time to pass a Window to Justice for these survivors is now,” said Democratic Leader Jay Costa. “We are calling on our colleagues in the Senate Republican Caucus to do the right thing here and deliver justice for these victims quickly and in a bipartisan fashion.”
“The victims of childhood sexual abuse have been failed by so many people in so many ways,” said Senator Sharif Street. “Let’s not fail them again by failing to act. It is offensive to use them as a bargaining chip, this should not be politicized.”
HB1 and HB2 were passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. HB1, which would create a constitutional amendment, passed 161-40, with Democrats voting unanimously for its passage. HB2, which would amend the statute itself, passed 134-67, again with unanimous Democratic support.
“We have a moral obligation and a professional duty to get this done,” Senator Santarsiero said. “This is not a new issue, and we have a unique opportunity here in the Senate to finally get these survivors justice. Let’s do the right thing and let’s do it now.”
“Today we have the opportunity to deliver HB 1 and HB 2 to the Governor’s desk and finally give adult survivors of child sex abuse a window to justice,” said Senator Maria Collett. “The longer we delay, the more survivors suffer and the harder their cases become to ultimately prove. We must not allow perpetrators of abuse or the institutions that shielded them to evade accountability any longer.”
The Senate passed SB1 on January 11, 2023, which would have put a constitutional amendment creating a Window to Justice on the ballot. However, Senate Republicans added an amendment to require voters to show ID every time they vote, and another allowing resolutions to override executive regulations. Democrats nearly unanimously voted against the bill as amended, outraged that the GOP prioritized political agendas over justice for countless victims of child sex abuse.
“We have an opportunity before us to come together in a bipartisan way and provide healing and justice to victims of child sexual abuse – but the Senate Majority Party continues to allow personal political priorities to stand in the way of the needs of survivors,” said Senator Katie Muth. “Every single survivor is worthy of being heard, protected, and having their rightful pathway to justice and healing. It is time that the Senate supports these victims and passes standalone legislation that opens a statute of limitations window for victims of child sexual abuse.”
Because HB1 and HB2 were passed during Special Session by the House, the Senate would need to gavel into special session. Before leaving office, Governor Wolf called a special session. The senate will be in regular session for five days prior to breaking for budget hearings, during which the Senate Democratic Caucus is urging the Republican Caucus to open a special session and pass HB1 and HB2 swiftly.
“Now that the House has taken lead in bringing justice for survivors of childhood sexual assault, it’s time the Senate does the same,” said Senator Kearney. “We need to stop the partisan tactics around the statutory window. The victims deserve better, and we can provide better, we can provide justice now. I join my Democratic Colleagues in urging this legislature to open the special session and vote on these pieces of legislation. It’s the right thing to do.”
Video footage of the press conference is available for viewing at PASenate.com/video. Downloadable footage is available upon request.