Senate Bill 131 Moves to Floor of State Assembly for Vote
This coming week the California State Assembly will vote on Senate Bill 131, proposed legislation authored by state Senator Jim Beall (D-Campbell) that seeks to amend the current California statute of limitations as it relates to the filing of civil lawsuits concerning the abuse of minors. This poorly written measure offers little support to the abused, does not increase criminal penalties for offenders, and unfairly targets private service organizations, such as our Church, by exposing them to limitless litigation.
It is urgent that we all Act Now. The State Assembly will take up SB 131 any day. Please join the California Bishops in contacting State Assembly members today, encouraging them to abstain or vote against SB131.
As you many of you know, the State Assembly Appropriations Committee voted down SB 131 on August 14th in the face of significant opposition from concerned Catholics and community members. Regrettably during the committee’s next hearing held on August 21st, the Chairman, Mike Gatto (D-LA), resorted to a parliamentary maneuver called a “roll call” vote to move the bill out of committee and onto the floor. The fact that supporters of SB 131 were forced to rely on procedural tricks to get this bill out of committee points out the obvious; it is a bad bill with weak support among the people of California.
If enacted, this bill offers no further protections to children nor does it increase criminal penalties for abusers. What it does do is expose the Church and other not-for-profit organization to unlimited liability. The bill’s author claims that this legislation will help victims, protect children and prevent abuse. The Catholic Church strongly supports these aims and has worked tirelessly over the past decade to advance such efforts. But the Church does not support SB 131 in its current form because it does not extend any added protection to the 90 percent of children who attend public school, while targeting not-for-profit service organizations, such as our Church.
Dioceses throughout California have worked to atone for past mistakes and have implemented robust procedures to ensure children and young people are as safe as we can make them. They have also pressed for changes in law and society to ensure children and young people are better protected. SB 131 does little to help advance this critical work. Existing law protects public schools, city recreation leagues and other local governments from being sued for any abuse that took place before 2009.
The changes within the proposed law will only affect private employers such as churches, youth leagues, the YMCA, foster homes and private schools by opening up yet another one year window for victims of long past abuse to sue private employers, opening them up to unlimited liability.
This legislative effort suggests the California assembly continues to be committed to preventing the abuse of minors. However, to focus its statutory penalties against a select few organizations is misguided. SB131 would allow the single largest constituency, public schools and other institutions, to be shielded from its intent. Because of this, we cannot support SB131’s unfair and ineffective real-world implications. Its ratification would penalize the Catholic Church and other not-for-profit service organizations.
The Truth About SB 131 – Orange County Catholic Newspaper