Burns supports victims of child sexual assault, votes to allow 2-year window for civil claims

Bill provides fix for administrative error that sunk constitutional amendment

HARRISBURG, April 7 – Once again standing up to support victims of childhood sexual assault, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, today took action to right a wrong, voting to pass legislation that would ensure that victims of assault can file claims against their abusers and those who worked to cover up abuse.

“Today’s vote was about doing what is right – and fixing an egregious error by the former Pennsylvania secretary of State,” Burns said. “The victims of childhood sexual assault have waited long enough, and the incompetence of a government bureaucrat shouldn’t require them to wait any longer. Today we did the right thing.”

The bill, H.B. 951, would amend the state’s judicial code to create a two-year window for victims to file civil claims, even if the statute of limitations has expired. Burns has supported similar legislation in the past, including legislation to amend the state constitution, which was signed into law last year but later invalidated by a clerical error.

The current bill passed Wednesday in a 149-52 vote, and now heads to the state Senate for further consideration.

The need for legislation and a retroactive window for survivors gained widespread support following a 2005 grand jury investigation that detailed systemic abuse of children in the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia and grand jury investigation of other archdioceses, including the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

“As a graduate of Bishop McCort, these victims were my classmates; they were my friends. I was sickened by the reports of cover-ups and widespread abuse, not just in our region, but across Pennsylvania,” Burns said. “We cannot allow ourselves to be defeated. The state Senate must step up and do what is right, and get this legislation across the finish line.”