We can certainly all agree that ensuring justice and support for child abuse victims is very important. Sexual abuse is egregious enough, but when a child is the victim it’s even worse.

However, good causes in and of themselves don’t produce the best results, necessarily. Such may be the case with the recent Statute of Limitations Constitutional Amendment that will likely be brought before the House and Senate in some form soon. A question I often ask as it relates to legislation, or any decision that will impact others, is “will this decision, although it may sound or appear good, actually achieve its desired end?” This resolution might not end up checking that box.

I recently talked with a friend of mine who is a legal expert. I asked him what he thought of the bill. His response was “it’s a bad bill wrapped in a good cause.” The cause is excellent. As mentioned, justice and restoration for childhood abuse victims is a desired goal of mine, and likely every single legislator in the general assembly. But will the bill, if cemented into law, achieve this goal? I’m not exactly sure about that.

A recent study by the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy projected that this SOL amendment, which opens a two-year window for abuse lawsuits after the fact, would cost PA taxpayers over $32B. That’s a significant price tag to be paid by innumerable Pennsylvanians who had nothing to do with any of the offenses that may have been committed. 

These alleged instances of abuse, in most cases, were committed long before any of the teachers, staff or administrators were employed at a public school, for example, who might be taken to court as a result of this amendment. But if School District “X” is on the hook for a $5M settlement payment because a former employee abused a child, that cost is almost certainly passed down to the innocent citizens of that district. It also, by implication, incriminates the employees of the district although probably all of them had zero involvement in the alleged crime.

This law might make a way for childhood abuse victims to receive financial restitution, which is a good thing, but on the other side of the token, it may not exert the burden of justice on the right target: the unknowing taxpayer.

Representative Joe D’Orsie represents the 47th legislative district, located in York County.

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