In a major defeat for the lobbying efforts of USA Swimming, the California Assembly today passed SB 131 — State Senator Jim Beall’s change in the state’s statute of limitations for civil claims of sexual abuse.
The key provision is technical but, according to victims’ advocates, potentially very significant in holding exposed institutions to account for past abuse and cover-up. In 2002, the legislature had lifted the statute of limitations on lawsuits for all of 2003, allowing dozens of claims to be filed for decades-old abuses. The key provision of Beall’s bill (which will go back to the Senate to reconcile small differences, then to Governor Jerry Brown for signature) lifts the statute of limitations on molestation claims for another year, for alleged victims who were at least 26 years old and missed the previous deadline because of abuse-related psychological problems.
Nancy Peverini, legislative director for Consumer Attorneys of California, called SB 131 one of the most heavily lobbied bills in the State Capitol this season. “Picture this: More than 20 high-paid corporate lobbyists representing the Catholic Church, Swim USA, the Boy Scouts and other entities using every piece of influence they could to get Legislators to vote NO on a bill protecting child abusers,” Peverini said.
Let’s see if USA Swimming’s losing streak continues in the nation’s capital, where Congressman George Miller’s Democratic minority staff at the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has begun investigating sexual abuse in amateur sports.