The House of Representatives amended a Senate bill that waspassed in June before approving the measure 191-1 on Tuesday. FinalSenate approval is needed before it would be sent to Gov. Ed Rendell.
Erik Arneson, an aide to Senate Majority Leader DavidBrightbill, R-Lebanon, said the Senate would probably accept thechanges made by the House. Sen. John Pippy, R-Allegheny, who sponsoredthe original bill, said Senate Republicans would discuss the latestversion in caucus Monday.
"A lot of the things I've seen are very positive," Pippy said Thursday.
The bill also includes a provision proposed by Pippy that wouldrequire more information about sex offenders to be posted on thestate's Megan's Law Web site, including complete addresses for alloffenders and whether their offenses involved children.
The state's Catholic dioceses already have policies in place toprotect children, such as mandatory criminal-background checks foranyone who has regular contact with children, said Amy Beisel, aspokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which lobbies onbehalf of the state's Catholic churches.
The grand jury recommended legislative reforms in a September2005 report that documented alleged assaults on minors by more than 60Philadelphia Archdiocese priests since 1967; it also alleged churchleaders covered up the abuse. But the panel said that, under currentlaw, too much time had elapsed for criminal charges to be filed againstthe church or the priests.
John Salveson, founder and president of the Bryn Mawr-basedFoundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, said expanding the statute oflimitations was a key provision because young victims may be too afraidor not know how to report alleged abuse.
"It often takes victims a long time to even sometimes understandwhat happened to them," Salveson said. "By the time they have figuredthat out, (it's) too late."
Salveson said his group would continue to advocate legislationthat would temporarily lift the statute of limitations on civillawsuits. A 2002 state law gives child sex-abuse victims until their30th birthday to file suit, but it is not retroactive; victimspreviously had to file suit within two years of an alleged incident.
Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, said he voted against the billbecause he questioned the fairness of expanding the statute oflimitations.
"If the law were in effect today, a crime that was allegedlycommitted during the Vietnam War era, 1965, could be brought (totrial)," Vitali said. "That puts someone who's facing these charges ina very unfair situation."
Rendell spokeswoman Kate Philips said the governor supportsprovisions of the bill that would help protect children from sexoffenders, but would "withhold final judgment" until it reaches hisdesk.