|Protecting Victims of Child Sexual Assault
In the aftermath of the Pennsylvania attorney general’s shocking and disturbing grand jury report on child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, the General Assembly will continue to take important steps to help protect victims and ensure they have both a voice and justice.
After the Penn State tragedy, the General Assembly created the Task Force on Child Protection, which then recommended numerous changes and updates to state laws. The more than two dozen new laws enacted during the 2013-14 session were designed to put the child first and written in a way that prosecutors, advocates and others see the abuse from the eyes of a child. Among those new laws were those to make abusers pay the price; improve child abuse reporting and investigations; share information to increase protection; strengthen prevention efforts; and criminalize the practice of “grooming.”
The work to protect children continues. Earlier this session, the House passed Act 67 of 2017, which eliminates the sunset provision in the Crimes Code regarding issuance of administrative subpoenas in investigations involving child sexual exploitation or abuse; and Act 54 of 2018, which requires public and nonpublic schools, as well as hospitals, to display a poster with the statewide toll-free telephone number for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect (ChildLine). The House also passed House Bill 1527, which is currently in the Senate, to clarify that mandated reporters must report suspected child abuse whenever they personally witness an abusive act to an identifiable child.
This fall, the House is expected to consider Senate Bill 261, which would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for prosecutions of sexual abuse of minors, extend the civil statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of minors until the victim reaches 50 years of age, waive sovereign and governmental immunity for claims and remove caps on damages against governmental parties sued for sexual abuse of minors. Currently, the statute of limitations for civil claims alleging sexual abuse of a minor is until the victim reaches age 30; and the statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions alleging sexual offenses against a minor is until the victim reaches age 50. In its current form, the bill would apply to future crimes only.
Anyone who suspects a child may be abused or neglected is encouraged to call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313. More information about child abuse is available at keepkidssafe.pa.gov. Those who have been affected by abuse stemming from the grand jury report are urged to visit attorneygeneral.gov/report for additional resources.
Celebrating a Century of Memories
I visited Mildred M. Walton on her 100th birthday on Aug. 22 and presented her with a House citation. It is amazing to think about all of the historical events Mildred has witnessed during her century on Earth. I congratulated her for achieving this milestone and hope she enjoys more health and happiness in the future.
Eyes in the Skies: Committee Explores State Use of Drones
At a meeting this week at the Bedford County Airport, members of the House Transportation Committee learned more about ways in which drones are being used to enhance safety, emergency preparedness and transportation within the Commonwealth.
Drones, which are pilotless, radio-controlled aircraft used for reconnaissance and routinely include cameras, are not only used by commercial enterprises and research entities but are growing in use by government agencies for emergency preparedness and response.
Testifying on their state government applications this week were officials from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Civil Air Patrol, Norfolk Southern Railroad, and Szanca Solutions and Eye In the Sky Unmanned Aerial Systems.
Last session, the Joint State Government Commission conducted a study on drones, which included operations performed by state and local agencies. Additionally, the report enumerates the categories of use and current federal regulations. That report is available here.
Save for College with State 529 Plan
For families looking to plan for higher education, the Pennsylvania Treasury offers the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP), in which growth is tied to the rate of college tuition inflation, and the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP), which offers 15 investment options by The Vanguard Group.
Contributions to PA 529 plans are deductible from Pennsylvania income taxes, grow tax free, and, when used for qualified educational expenses, are federal and state tax exempt. Both plans provide flexibility to pay for higher education expenses at most higher education institutions across the country. The PA 529 GSP is designed to enable your savings to help keep pace with the rising costs of higher education. The PA 529 GSP contributions grow at the rate of tuition inflation but are subject to fees and premiums.
The PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) is offering free enrollment – a $50 savings – for all new accounts opened before Aug. 31, at PA529.com. Use code “SUMMERGSP” when prompted.
The PA 529 Investment Plan (IP) features low fees and more than a dozen conservative and aggressive investment options. No enrollment fee is charged for the PA 529 IP.