HARRISBURG, Pa. (WENY) — The Pennsylvania House will convene for special session this week beginning Tuesday. Once operating rules are approved, House Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) hopes the House will be able to pass his top priority: a two-year window for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
“When I first came to Harrisburg over a decade ago, I had one goal in mind: to see that survivors of childhood sexual assault receive the justice that they deserve,” said Speaker Rozzi.
After he was elected speaker in January, Rozzi made it clear the House would not consider any legislation until it passed the two-year window, which would allow victims to file civil lawsuits against their abusers outside the statute of limitations.
When the House returns tomorrow, Democrats will have a majority for the first time in 12 years and should be able to pass a set of operating rules. Partisan gridlock and disagreement over rules have stalled the House from considering any legislation.
Once the rules are in place, the two-year window can be considered. There are two paths for the window. One is a constitutional amendment and the other is a statutory bill. Rozzi says he plans to re-introduce both this week.
“When we return to session on February the 21st, I will keep my promise to survivors of childhood sexual assault and bring up a constitutional amendment and a statutory bill, both which will provide a window to justice and desperately needed relief to victims,” said Rozzi.
Passing the window via a statutory bill has seen opposition from some Senate Republicans in the past. Senate Republican leaders argue the constitutional amendment, which the Senate passed last month, is the best path forward. However, the amendment was combined into one Senate bill, with two more-partisan amendments, and has not been considered in the House.
Rozzi is urging the Senate to pass both the statutory bill and new constitutional amendment, once they pass the House. Rozzi said the statutory bill could be signed into law as soon as March if it passes both chambers. The constitutional amendment could appear on the ballot in November- it would need approval from the House and Senate and does not require a signature from the governor.
“I strongly urge the Senate to stand up for survivors, stop protecting abusers, and quickly pass both pieces of legislation when they return to session on February the 27th,” said Rozzi. “History will judge us based on what we did to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens: our children. I urge my colleagues to stand with me and show survivors they will finally get their chance to know the truth, to get justice, and most importantly, expose these perpetrators who still live among us,” Rozzi added.