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PA Senate approves child sex-abuse bill extending criminal, civil statutes of limitations

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would give future victims of child sex abuse more time to prosecute or sue their attackers than currently allowed under state law.

The bill sailed through the chamber after its introduction Monday by Republican President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati of Jefferson County. The measure would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for prospective cases of child sexual abuse and also allow future victims to sue their attackers at any age. Currently, victims may sue only for 12 years after their 18th birthday.

Scarnati's bill comes after the Senate refused to endorse a more expansive House bill last year that would have given victims the right to sue for abuse dating back to the 1970s. The House measure had been drafted and overwhelmingly approved after the release of a state grand jury report that found decades of clergy abuse and cover-ups within the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese in central Pennsylvania.

It was not clear how soon the House would take up the Senate bill. A spokesman for House Republicans did not immediately return a call for comment.

The  Senate passed the bill Monday with no debate.