Reps. Rozzi, Gregory encourage survivors to show support for PA legislative action

HARRISBURG, March 31 – After years of advocating for justice for the victims of childhood sexual abuse, state Reps. Jim Gregory, R-Blair, and Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, are encouraging survivors and their families to show their support for legislative action to deliver justice for those survivors by attending the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ upcoming sessions scheduled for Monday, April 5 and Tuesday, April 6.

Gregory and Rozzi have worked together to offer a dual path for justice to childhood sexual abuse survivors: They have authored a statutory standalone bill, as well as a constitutional amendment, with the hope one path will finally deliver justice for victims.

Rozzi has authored H.B. 951, which would partially lift sovereign immunity protection for public schools and institutions in sexual abuse cases, holding public and private institutions accountable. The bill would allow for civil cases where the injuries to the plaintiff were caused by actions or omissions by state or local agencies that constitute negligence. Gregory plans to offer an amendment to the bill Monday to provide a retroactive two-year window for victims to file civil lawsuits.

Amendments to the bill may be offered on second (Monday) and third (Tuesday) readings. The bill could potentially be up for a vote in the House on Tuesday. 

  • Session is scheduled to start at noon Monday, when H.B. 951 is on the calendar for second consideration.
  • Session is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Tuesday, when H.B. 951 could be up for third consideration and potential final passage in the House.

The Capitol reopened to the public earlier this month. Visitors must wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Gregory has already offered a measure to start the two-year constitutional amendment process – creating the second path of justice for victims. His joint resolution has already passed the House and Senate this session and will need to pass both chambers again next session (in 2023-2024) before it can appear on the ballot. The earliest it could appear on a ballot to be considered by voters for adoption to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is 2023.

For years, Gregory and Rozzi have worked together on a bipartisan compromise after previous efforts to pass similar legislation for a retroactive window for victims failed repeatedly. Both men have shared their experiences as survivors of separate incidents of childhood sexual abuse.

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. Legislation to provide justice, however, has failed to pass the General Assembly. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the insurance industry have opposed previous efforts: 

  • Yet another setback happened after the House passed H.B. 14 in January for the second consecutive session. Its two-year journey and passage this year seemingly cleared the way for it to appear on the May 2021 ballot and be presented to voters for adoption into the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. However, it was revealed in February that the Department of State failed to advertise the proposed amendment in the state’s 67 counties as necessary under state law. Following public revelation of the error, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, who oversaw the Department of State, resigned. 
  • Leaders from both parties pushed for an emergency constitutional amendment, and it looked like a possibility in March, with members of Republican leadership issuing assurances they would support the measure. After Republican Senate leadership issued a statement that the matter did not reach the level of an emergency, Republican House leadership did not bring the measure up for a vote.