Landmark Statute of Limitations Reform and Other Protections for Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse Passes Legislature
More than a year after the release of Pennsylvania’s grand jury report on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, the General Assembly finally passed landmark legislation aimed at protecting victims of childhood sexual abuse and most significantly, bills that reform the statute of limitations in both criminal and civil cases for such abuses.
The package of bills that have passed and been sent to the Governor for signature are as follows:
House Bill 962 (HB 962) – eliminates the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges entirely; extends the statute of limitations for civil suits for childhood sexual abuse until the victim achieves the age of 55; waives the Commonwealth's sovereign immunity and governmental immunity related to childhood sexual abuse; and provides that any person with a claim of sexual abuse that has been reported to law enforcement may apply to have counseling paid for through the Crime Victims Fund.
House Bill 963 (HB 963) – constitutional amendment that provides for a two-year retroactive window for victims of childhood sexual abuse for whom a statutory limitations period has already expired.
House Bill 1051 (HB 1051) – increases the penalties for failure of a mandated reporter to make a report of suspected child abuse when it is a continuing course of action.
House Bill 1171 (HB 1171) – prohibits the use of nondisclosure agreements that prevent victims of childhood sexual abuse from disclosing the name of a person suspected of childhood sexual abuse or cooperating with law enforcement investigations into child sexual abuse claims.
While this package of legislation addresses the grand jury recommendations, for which I’ve loudly advocated for with the Governor, Attorney General and my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus for more than a year, I do admit that I believe we missed an opportunity relative to the two-year window for past victims in that I would prefer the more expedient course of action by simply addressing the issue via statute and not having to go through the long constitutional amendment process, I realize that we must move forward with what has the votes to get this matter moving forward. With that said, we must remain vigilant and steadfast in ensuring that the General Assembly pass the same amendment language in the next legislative session so that it makes the ballot so Pennsylvania voters, whom we know overwhelmingly support this necessary reform for victims, can come together and vote to bring justice to these brave survivors.
While the suffering will certainly endure for survivors of these unconscionable acts no matter what laws are enacted, I hope that this legislation is a step in the right direction for them in their long, valiant march toward justice.
All Senate offices will be closed this Thursday, Nov. 28 and Friday, Nov. 29 in observance of Thanksgiving. My offices will re-open as scheduled on Monday, Dec. 2. I wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.
Pathways to Pardons Event
On Monday, Dec. 2, Representative Jake Wheatley and I will be hosting a Pathways to Pardons event at the McKinley Recreation Center, located at 900 Delmont Avenue in McKinley Park in Beltzhoover.
Pathways to Pardons is an event that provides an opportunity to learn about the pardon process in Pennsylvania and empower individuals with education and awareness of Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate law. The event will include a presentation from Julie Stickland-Gilyard from the Lt. Governor’s office. Representatives from PennDOT and the Allegheny County Clerk of Courts will also be on hand to assist attendees by providing the necessary steps they need to take to restore driving privileges.
The event runs from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. For more information please call 412-471-7760. The event is free and open to the public.
Community Parks, Small Community and Partnership Grants
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) announced recently grant awards through their Community Parks, Small Community and Partnership Grants program. I was pleased that Avalon Borough and Castle Shannon Borough were awarded grants and was proud to support and advocate for both their applications.
Avalon Borough received a grant in the amount of $184,000 for the rehabilitation of Avalon Park. The rehabilitation work will include the construction of pedestrian walkways and stormwater management measures, the installation of play equipment with required safety surfacing, ADA access, landscaping, project sign and related site improvements.
Castle Shannon Borough received a grant for $17,500 to prepare a Master Site Development Plan for the 12-acre Hamilton Park.
The DCNR Recreation and Conservation grant program is funded with a variety of state and federal funding sources including, the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund (Key 93) which includes Key-Community and Key-Land Trust; the Environmental Stewardship Fund (ESF); the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF); Pennsylvania Heritage Area Program (HA).
Gaming Revenue Increases in October
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced recently that total revenue from gaming, including table games, slot machines, fantasy contests and sports betting in Pennsylvania during the month of October increased 11 percent compared with October 2018. Total gaming revenue in October came in at more than $283.7 million compared with $255.6 million in October 2018. Total tax revenue generated from all forms of gaming and fantasy contests was more than $116.4 million in October.
For a complete breakdown of revenues generated from all forms of gaming in Pennsylvania, please visit www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov. The state’s gaming industry employs over 16,000 people and generates approximately $1.4 billion annually in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games.
Did You Know…
Did you know that currently 12 casinos throughout Pennsylvania offer retail sports wagering and five of those 12 also offer online sports wagering including Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh?
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) began accepting applications for this season’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) on Nov 1. The program helps low income families pay their heating bills. You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website (www.compass.state.pa.us). You can also pick up an application in my district offices or download one yourself from the DHS LIHEAP website. Completed paper applications should be returned to the Allegheny County Assistance Office, located at 5947 Penn Avenue, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206.
Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. The income limits for this season are as follows:
After your application is received you will receive a written notice explaining your eligibility and the amount of assistance you will receive. Payments are generally sent directly to a utility company or fuel provider and will be credited to your heating account. Crisis grants may also be available if you have an emergency situation and are in jeopardy of losing your heat. For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
New Senior Citizen ConnectCards
The Port Authority of Allegheny County continues to issue new Senior Citizen ConnectCards and my office can assist. The new cards will replace the current blue or yellow PA Senior Transit ID cards and will have a photo of the cardholder on the card. These new cards will enable the user to ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Both my Brookline and Kennedy Township offices are equipped to help seniors get their new cards. Simply visit either office and bring with you ONE valid document that shows proof-of-age. This includes a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID card, birth certificate, PACE ID card, or passport to name a few. My staff will enter your information into Port Authority’s system and upload your photo and a copy of your proof-of-age document.
Upon receiving the information from my office, the Port Authority will produce a new Senior Citizen ConnectCard and then mail the card to my office where you can return to pick up the card. New cards should take a couple weeks to arrive at my office from the time Port Authority receives the information. When you return to get your new card, please bring with you your current senior bus pass so we can exchange it for your new ConnectCard.
Anyone age 65 or over is eligible to receive this new card and ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free.
Small Business Saturday
This Saturday, Nov. 30 marks the 10th anniversary of what has become Small Business Saturday across the country. This annual event began in 2010 with the help of American Express and is held each year on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, as an awareness campaign to support small businesses in neighborhoods across America.
Locally, many communities within the 42nd Senatorial District are participating in Small Business Saturday with deals, sales, and other events. There are some great local business districts and terrific local merchants with much to offer to a wide variety of clientele. American Express has established a site, https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/, where small businesses can register and shoppers can search for small businesses in their area. To find participating small businesses in your area, just click on the “Find Small Businesses Near You” tab and then enter your location to get started.
The City of Pittsburgh’s Office of Community affairs is now accepting applications for the 2019-2020 Snow Angels Program. This program pairs older adult residents and residents with disabilities with nearby volunteer Snow Angels to help them shovel and salt their property throughout the winter.
In order to request help from a Snow Angel, neighbors must:
- Be at least 60 years old or have a physical disability
- Live within City of Pittsburgh limits
- Lack other resources (financial or family/friends nearby) to assist with snow removal
Volunteers and neighbors in need can register for the program online at https://pittsburghpa.gov/snowangels/ or by calling the City’s 311 Response Center. The 2018-2019 program saw over 210 neighbors matched with volunteers to help them manage the hardships of winter.
The Office of Community Affairs will offer incentives throughout the winter season for individuals to volunteer on their social media accounts on Facebook (facebook.com/ocapgh), Twitter (@ocapgh) and NextDoor. Community-based organizations, companies or employers are encouraged to assist with volunteer recruitment in their communities by having volunteers mention the organization’s name when they register. The organization that recruits the most volunteers will win the 2019-2020 Golden Shovel award and other incentives that will be announced later.
For more information or to find out more about how to help with volunteer recruitment, contact the Snow Angels Program at email@example.com or 412-255-0846.
According to WalletHub, 88 percent of Americans are most thankful for their family this Thanksgiving with 77 percent thankful for their health, 72 percent for their personal freedom and 71 percent are most thankful for their friends.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol |
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – First Tuesday of each month or by appointment