Pennsylvania State Capitol. Pennsylvania State Capitol. Photo credit: Zack Frank/

Sex Abuse

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Sept. 12 demanded that the General Assembly take action this fall to allow adult victims of child sex abuse to seek justice:

“In this fall legislative term it is critical for the Pennsylvania legislature to pass laws to allow these brave victims who came forward and told their stories to have their chance in court to try to get some semblance of justice,” DePasquale said in a press statement.

DePasquale was speaking in favor of a legislative effort to extend the civil statute of limitations to allow adults to sue for sexual abuse they may have suffered as a child. In the 2015-16 session, House Bill 1947—which would have wiped out criminal statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases and extended the civil statute of limitations—died in committee. An explosive grand jury report detailing decades of abuse by priests against child parishioners in the Catholic Church—and administrative efforts to cover the abusers’ tracks—has given new impetus for measures that would provide for access to the legal system for accusers.

“The Pennsylvania legislature doesn’t need to show bravery it simply needs to do its job,” DePasquale said. “It needs to pass comprehensive reform to allow statute of limitation changes so that these brave victims can have some semblance of justice.”

Stay-at-Home Students

A bipartisan group of Pennsylvania senators announced a proposal to create a grant program that would fund technology to help prevent students who can’t leave home to attend school from falling behind academically.

Sen. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, leader of the Senate Democrats, Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Chester, and Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, are the prime movers behind a bill that would task the state Department of Education with directing grant money to the state’s 29 intermediate units so they may purchase technology to allow real-time communication between students at home and their classrooms. The technology would allow students who are unable to physically attend classes to participate in classroom activities and normal schoolwork.

The help would be directed to students with serious medical issues that require extended absence from school.

“Many students face significant academic challenges when they are forced to spend an extended period of time away from school,” Martin said in a press statement. “Whether their absence is due to a severe injury, debilitating medical condition or recovery from surgery, students and their parents shouldn’t have to worry about the impact these challenges could create in terms of schoolwork.”

Mental Health

State Rep. Helen Tai, D-Bucks, on Sept. 10 announced she is introducing a resolution directing the Joint State Government Commission to study the mental health provider shortage in Pennsylvania and issue a report no later than one year after its adoption.

The commission’s report would explore the factors behind the MHP shortage, make projections on the number of providers in the future and offer recommendations to stop and reverse the shortage, according to a statement from Tai.

“Access to mental health services and providers are key to addressing so many of the problems Pennsylvanians struggle with each day, including substance abuse disorders, school safety and rising rates of suicide,” Tai said. “As the demand for mental health services has grown, there continues to be a shortage of mental health providers to meet their needs.”

Military Decorations

Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella on Sept. 10 unveiled a new web page aimed at finding the proper recipients of unclaimed military decorations.

According to a statement from the Treasury, a new search function allows users to search their names, or the name of a loved one, to see if the Treasury is holding a military decoration as unclaimed property. In addition, users can look through a photo gallery featuring some of the decorations that are in the unclaimed property vault, as well as medals that have been returned to their rightful owners. Military decorations are often reported to the Treasury as contents held in a safe deposit box that has gone unclaimed or abandoned.

“Behind each military decoration held in Treasury’s unclaimed property vault, there is a story of sacrifice,” Torsella said. “It’s my hope that, with the use of technology, we are able to get more of these medals back where they belong—with the veterans and their families.”

9/11 Remembrance

Gov. Tom Wolf joined President Donald Trump at an observance marking the place where United Flight 93 crashed to the ground after passengers foiled a third attack on Sept. 11, 2001. The officials dedicated a “Tower of Voices” at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville.

Wolf said the memorial will stand as a reminder of the passengers’ “impossible sacrifices made in the skies above us.”

He also thanked Trump for joining in the remembrance.

Speaking of the 40 passengers who wrested control of the plane away from hijackers, Trump said they “boarded the plane as strangers—and they entered eternity linked forever as true heroes.”

Liquor Sales

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board on Sept. 12 announced a record year for retail liquor sales and net income for state-owned liquor stores.

Contributions to state and local government beneficiaries totaled $749.6 million for the fiscal year, the agency said.

Pre-audit financial results for fiscal year 2017-18 showed sales of $2.59 billion (including liquor and sales taxes), a $67.8 million, or 2.7 percent, increase over the prior year, the PLCB said in a press statement. The growth continues a two-decade trend, the PLCB said.

Net income for the year totaled a record $158.2 million, $53.4 million, or 50.9 percent, higher than the prior fiscal year. Negotiation of product acquisition costs and retail prices with wine and spirits suppliers led to a nearly 1 percent boost in profitability, the PLCB said. •