Bills granting relief to sexual abuse survivors pass House, head to Senate | Five for the Weekend

Happy weekend, all. 

The House passed two bills on Friday, granting relief to survivors of sexual assault, in a special session of the lower chamber.

The bills – House bills 1 and 2 – passed 161-40 and 134-67, respectively, and would allow survivors of sexual abuse to file otherwise outdated lawsuits against their abusers.

The bills now head to the GOP-controlled Senate for consideration.

At a press conference following session on Friday, House Speaker Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, called on the Senate to take up the bills.

“It’s time for the Senate to take a vote and to give the survivors of the commonwealth what they so deserve,” Rozzi said.

Hours later, state Sen. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, issued a statement calling a special session of the Senate to consider the bills “unnecessary” and called on the House to take up Senate Bill 1, a three-part constitutional amendment package containing a two-year window for survivors, instead.

“The unwillingness of the Speaker to convene until after the House special elections took place clearly shows he chose to set his priority concern aside for the political benefit of House Democrats,” Pittman said. “There is no valid justification for preventing voters from having a direct voice on voter identification, regulation reform and opening the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors through constitutional questions. The only reason these questions will not appear on the May ballot is because of the inaction of the Speaker of the House.”

Manuel Bonder, a spokesperson for Gov. Josh Shapiro, called the passage of the bills in the House a “critical step towards helping survivors receive the day in court they deserve.”

“Survivors have waited decades for this important step toward accountability, and the House delivered today for these Pennsylvanians,” Bonder said. “The Senate has taken action to support survivors and advance justice in Pennsylvania before — and it is the Governor’s hope that they will do so again now.”

The House and Senate return to Harrisburg next week.

As always, the top five stories from this week are below.

A display of banned books at the San Jose Public Library (Photo courtesy of San Jose Public Library via Flickr | CC-BY-SA 2.0/The Daily Montanan).

1. Meet Moms for Liberty, the group leading LGBTQ book bans in Pa. schools

In the ongoing battle over school book bans in Pennsylvania and nationwide, one group is speaking with an outsized voice.

Founded in early 2021 in Florida, Moms for Liberty (M4L) has expanded since then and now has over 200 county chapters nationwide in 35 states. The organization currently claims over 200,000 members.

Originally focused on opposing mask mandates in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, Moms for Liberty quickly expanded its agenda to oppose LGBT-positive policies in schools, LGBT-themed materials in school libraries, what they believe is critical race theory in curricula, and many other diversity-positive issues related to schools and students.

Then Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman addresses supporters in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, 11/8/22 (Capital-Star photo by Kim Lyons)

2. Looking to raise awareness, Fetterman asks supporters to donate to mental health organizations

Since his office announced late last week that he was seeking treatment for clinical depression, there’s been a flood of public support for freshman Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., for making his condition and treatment public.

President Joe Biden tweeted a message of support on Friday: “Millions of people struggle with depression every day, often in private. Getting the care you need is brave and important. We’re grateful to you for leading by example.”

Detail of the map that Gov. Josh Shapiro showed during his news conference on Monday, 2/6/23 (Screen Capture).

3. Shapiro says Norfolk Southern’s response to East Palestine derailment and fire put first responders and residents at ‘significant risk’

Gov. Josh Shapiro released a strongly worded letter to the president of Norfolk Southern on Tuesday, criticizing the railroad’s unilateral decision-making in the aftermath of the Feb. 3 derailment of a train loaded with hazardous chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio.

Shapiro’s letter to Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw followed a meeting with elected officials and emergency management officials in Beaver County. The derailment happened a quarter-mile from Pennsylvania’s border with Ohio.

State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, speaks before signing a package of three bills, which mirror three of the Grand Jury’s recommendations on addressing the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse, inside Muhlenberg High School on Tuesday, November 26, 2019 (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

4. Pa. House Speaker Rozzi headed for clash with Senate Republicans on abuse survivors’ bill

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will return to session on Tuesday with a Democratic majority and a speaker with a single-minded dedication to providing legal recourse for victims of childhood sexual abuse that he and others have sought for nearly two decades.

But the standalone legislation Speaker Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, intends to pass is at odds with legislation passed by state Senate Republicans, who staunchly insist on tying the relief for abuse survivors to other GOP legislative priorities.

After a nearly-two-month hiatus for special elections to fill three vacant seats and work on breaking a stalemate over rules, the House will pick up its reorganization where it left off on swearing-in day on Jan. 3.

The Homer City Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant in Indiana County, is one the plants locals are concerned could shutter under RGGI, a proposed cap-and-trade program to limit carbon emissions. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

5. GOP lawmaker plans to introduce bill to ‘eliminate’ RGGI regulation

Nearly a year after Pennsylvania formally joined the multi-state carbon-reduction compact known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), one lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation to eliminate the regulation and prevent others like it.

State Reps. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, and Dallas Kephart, R-Clearfield, said in a co-sponsorship memo that they want to “eliminate the RGGI regulation and prevent future similar proposals from proceeding without legislative approval.”

The program, which former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced that Pennsylvania would join through an executive order in 2019, has been the subject of continued controversy with legal challenges questioning the governor’s authority to join such an agreement without the consent of the General Assembly.

And that’s the week. We’ll see you back here next week.

Originally published at,by Cassie Miller

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