PA House returns, but Franklin Co. Reps not keen on statute of limitations changes

21 February 2023- After six weeks of seemingly nothing, all the while getting paid, the Pennsylvania House returns to session as three newly elected members of the body are sworn in. While the body may be back in theory, they are still under the guidelines of a “Special Session”. In a special session, only one thing can be discussed and voted on, meaning that no other legislation can move forward until an outcome is determined or the special session ends.

Through social media, Franklin County Representative Paul Schemel has come out as a strong opponent of the proposed constitutional amendment to open a window in the state’s statute of limitations law that would allow victims of childhood sexual abuse come forward after the original statute has ended to seek civil and criminal changes. Schemel’s reasoning comes down to the legal aspects of the law, which can be seen below.

The House has not been in session for several weeks, partly due to a dispute over the rules that govern how session is held. Now, a special session is scheduled for Feb. 21 to 24. The special session, called initially by Gov. Tom Wolf, is limited in scope to only matters pertaining to childhood sexual abuse.

Specifically, the session will be dedicated to debating the proposed constitutional amendment that would open a “window” in the state’s statute of limitations allowing individuals with claims of childhood sexual abuse to sue their abusers AND the institutions for which the abusers worked or volunteered. This, despite the fact that the statute of limitations has long since passed.

I have opposed this proposed amendment each time it has come up. Statutes of limitations are intended to prevent accusations which are so far in the past that the accused can no longer effectively defend themselves. Although I understand the seriousness of the abuse alleged in these claims, I do not believe that it is appropriate to exchange one injustice for another.