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New statute of limitations bill for child sex abuse victims introduced in Pa. Senate

Leaders of the Pennsylvania Senate on Monday introduced a bill to extend the amount of time that future victims of child sexual abuse would have to sue or prosecute their attackers, reviving a controversial measure that led to a legislative standoff before it collapsed late last year.

The bill introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati  of Jefferson County seeks to eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for prospective cases of child sexual abuse and would allow future victims to sue their attackers at any age. Currently, victims may sue only for 12 years after their 18th birthday.

Advocates last year waged a fierce battle led by Berks County Democratic Rep. Mark Rozzi, a childhood priest abuse survivor. Rozzi championed the more expansive House bill after an investigative grand jury report into clergy abuse in central Pennsylvania. That bill sailed through the House with key support from House Majority Leader Dave Reed, a Republican.

Rozzi on Monday did not respond to a request for comment, and neither did a spokesman for House Republicans.

Republican Tom Murt of Bucks County, a Catholic who had fought with Rozzi for a bill that would allow retroactive lawsuit rights, said Monday he would push to amend Scarnati's bill, if necessary.

Murt said the Scarnati bill is "an improvement" by expanding such rights for future aubse victims. But it does not do enough: "There are many victims who would not be able to reach for justice," he said.

A state grand jury led by the Attorney General's Office is investigating clergy abuse allegations at multiple Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.