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Ronnie Polaneczky: Bill to protect humans thrown to the dogs

HERE'S MY PLEA for the day: Call state Rep. Thomas Caltagirone and ask why he believes that surgically maimed puppies deserve more attention from the state Legislature than sexually abused humans.

HERE'S MY PLEA for the day:

Call state Rep. Thomas Caltagirone and ask why he believes that surgically maimed puppies deserve more attention from the state Legislature than sexually abused humans.

And if he explains himself in a way that makes any moral sense at all, would you please call and explain it to me?

Because I'm at a loss to understand how someone of Caltagirone's stature can weep over damaged dogs but blithely dismiss damaged humans.

Caltagirone, D-Berks, is majority chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, where House Bill 1137 - The Child Victims' Act of PA - has been rotting for a year.

The bill would give childhood sex-abuse victims until age 50 to bring civil suits against their abusers; the current age limit is 30. It would also open a two-year window to allow childhood sex-abuse victims to file a civil suit when the statute of limitations on their case had otherwise expired.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference - surprise! - deplores the bill. The church protected its pervert priests for decades, so who knows how many lawsuits might get filed on behalf of aging abuse victims?

Also pooh-poohing HB1137 is the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, which doesn't want insurance companies paying for offenses that would've been covered by old liability policies - ones whose premiums were calculated based on the old limitations statutes.

Neither the church nor the insurance industry needs to fret, though. They've got a lapdog advocate in powerful Caltagirone, who last week told the Inquirer that HB1137 is dead to him.

"It is not going anywhere, and it's not going to have a hearing," he said.

Unlike his puppy-protection bill, whose cause has stirred his soul in a way that justice for molested kids apparently doesn't.

Last week, Caltagirone stood on the steps of the state Capitol and unveiled his own bill, HB 2532. Among other things, it would forbid dog owners to perform surgeries, like tail-docking and C-sections, on their pups (a practice among deviant canine owners whose botched procedures maim dogs).

All well and good. You don't have to be an animal lover to recoil at the thought of anyone other than a trained vet slicing into a dog's belly.

But it's stunning how Caltagirone's bill, which went to the Judiciary Committee only on May 14, is already galloping toward a June 10 vote there.

Meanwhile, HB1137 molders in the committee because Caltagirone has already made up his mind about it.

"What's motivating this and driving this is money . . . That's what it's all about, the money," he told the Inquirer. "It's not about justice."

Actually, it's all about justice. It's about the chance to hold accountable those who knew that once the statutes had run out on the sexual miseries they'd inflicted on kids, they'd be scot-free.

And let's be clear: Pedophile priests aren't the only creeps who ever touched kids inappropriately. So did plenty of uncles and neighbors, ministers, teachers and coaches. This bill would impact all past abusers, not just those who wore clerical collars.

And, importantly, it could help identify those who are still offending, the way a similar bill has already done in California.

These are points that Caltagirone and others on the Judiciary Committee would learn, if only hearings on HB1137 were held.

But Caltagirone's obstinance means that victims are being denied the chance to challenge the notion that childhood sex-abuse victims only want a payday.

"It's really unbelievable," sighs Rep. Lisa Bennington, the bill's prime sponsor. She held a news conference last week to bring awareness to the fact that the Judiciary Committee is killing the bill by neglect.

She's especially repulsed by Caltagirone's Inquirer remark that HB1137 is pointless because victims of childhood sex abuse wouldn't accurately recall what happened to them so long ago.

"So," he told the Inquirer, "32 years later, people will remember exactly what took place?"

"I think," says Bennington pointedly, "if you're raped and sodomized as a child, it's something you never forget. In fact, I think it's something you carry with you for the rest of your life."

Perhaps if victims wore it around their necks, like a flea collar, Caltagirone would be willing to hear them out.

To urge hearings on HB1137, contact the following legislators:

* Rep. Samuel Smith, Republican floor leader, 717-787-3845;

* Rep. Dennis O'Brien, speaker of the House, 717-787-5689;

* Sen. Bill DeWeese, House majority floor leader, 717- 783-3797;

* Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, 717-787-3525;

* Rep. Ron Marsico, minority chairman, Judiciary Committee,

717-652-3721; *

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