Capitol Roundup: Rozzi to host news conference Monday on justice for clergy abuse victims

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]

WILKES-BARRE — State Rep. Mark Rozzi will host a legislator news conference at noon Monday in the Capitol Rotunda to push for legislative changes that will allow past victims of childhood sexual abuse to seek justice.

On the heels of the two-year grand jury investigation into widespread sexual abuse of children in six dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church, Rozzi, D-Berks, will discuss his amendment to S.B. 261 — a statute of limitations reform bill.

Rozzi’s amendment would create a two-year “window to justice” for now-adult victims of childhood sexual abuse who have aged out of their statute of limitations, allowing them to bring civil claims in court.

Rozzi was 13 when a Catholic priest brutally raped him in the shower more than 30 years ago.

Now 47, Rozzi is leading the fight to give all victims of past sexual abuse the right to seek justice.

Rozzi will be joined by state Sen. John Rafferty, R-Berks/Chester/Montgomery, vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Delaware/Montgomery, minority chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Rep. Katharine Watson, R-Bucks, chairwoman of the House Children and Youth Committee; and a dozen former House and Senate members coming from as far as California.

Other guests will include former acting-Gov. Mark Singel from Johnstown, and former Speakers of the House Dennis O’Brien and Bob O’Donnell, both from Philadelphia. Previous grand jury investigations related to abuse focused on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

S.B. 261 is scheduled to be considered by the House on Monday.

A march is also set for Monday to support the “window to justice,” starting at 11 a.m. on City Island and proceeding to the state Capitol, prior to the news conference.

Rozzi will later join Gov. Tom Wolf, first lady Frances Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro at a Sexual Abuse Survivor Rally scheduled for Monday at 5:45 p.m. on the Capitol steps, followed by a lighting ceremony at 7.

Anyone with questions should call Rozzi’s office at 717-783-3290.

Shapiro leading effort on

mandatory abuse reporting

Attorney General Josh Shapiro this week hosted a roundtable and press conference with state legislators, district attorneys, survivors of child sexual abuse and others to highlight the need for the Legislature to approve four key reforms recommended by a statewide grand jury that investigated sexual abuse of minors by Catholic Church clergy and decades of institutional coverup by church leaders.

Shapiro was joined by state Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery County, Sen. John Rafferty, R-Berks/Chester/Montgomery, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, Bucks County DA Matthew Weintraub, state Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm, and victims and their families of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

Stephens announced at the news conference with Shapiro that he is sponsoring legislation to strengthen the state law governing the mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse – a key reform recommended by the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury. The grand jury released a report last month identifying 301 predator priests and more than 1,000 victims of clergy sexual abuse.

“When the grand jury released its report, I challenged all Pennsylvania bishops to adopt and support each of these recommended reforms to Pennsylvania law,” Shapiro said. “Sadly, none of them have. I’m proud to stand here today with Representative Stephens, district attorneys and survivors of child sexual abuse to take the first step towards adopting one of these essential reforms.”

“We know the vulnerability of young victims of sexual abuse, and they need every protection the law allows,” Stephens said. “We need to make sure our mandatory reporting law in place has the necessary teeth to protect victims and ensure law enforcement is notified of abuse allegations and can investigate whenever it is appropriate.”

The grand jury’s four recommendations are:

• Eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children. Current law permits victims to come forward until age 50.

• Create a “civil window” so older victims may sue for damages. Current law gives child sex abuse victims 12 years to sue, once they turn 18.The grand jury recommended a two-year window to sue.

• Clarify penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse. New language imposes a continuing obligation to report “while the person knows or has reasonable cause to believe the abuser is likely to commit additional acts of child abuse.” This is the reform being supported by Rep. Stephens in the state House.

• Specify that civil confidentiality agreements do not cover communications with law enforcement. The grand jury proposed a new statute which states that no past or future agreement can prohibit an individual from communicating with police.

Grant program invests in

Pa. dairy industry, farmers

Gov. Tom Wolf this week announced the availability of $5 million in grants to help Pennsylvania dairy farmers.

“Today’s market has presented new challenges to dairy farmers that are requiring them to innovate and adapt in order to remain successful,” Wolf said. “The new Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program is a key tool that incentivizes the dairy industry to support the often costly and difficult process of modernizing or expanding their business model or operation. My administration is proud to continue to stand with our hard-working dairy farmers and their families.”

The Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program was established under Act 42 of 2018 and will provide grants to eligible applicants for researching new technologies, products and best practices; marketing to new domestic and international markets and exploring new business opportunities to diversify their operation and revenue streams; transitioning to organic production methods; and incorporating or expanding value-added dairy production, such as cheese and yogurt products. The program is now open for applications after guidelines were recently approved.

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.