Deal struck to pass budget, extend sexual abuse statute of limitations: AP report




Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

A deal to break the budget stalemate in the Arizona Senate that has stalled the passage of an $11.8 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year appears to exist, The Associated Press reported Sunday afternoon.

The agreement in principle largely concerns a piece of legislation that isn’t in the budget: a measure that would significantly expand the rights of people who were sexually abused as children to sue their abusers and institutions that protected them. Sens. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, and Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, had been withholding their votes on the GOP-designed budget until such a measure was passed.

Arizona law only allows such victims to sue until they turn 20 years old. All year long, Boyer has been pushing to increase that statute of limitations to at least age 30, plus allow a window during which people who have already passed the statute of limitations could file lawsuits.

Republican opponents of the bill, led by Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, have said that Boyer’s proposals would pose existential legal threats to institutions – such as the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts of America or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which to varying degrees have silenced victims and protected their abusers – and the insurance companies who would ultimately be forced to pay settlements.

The AP reported that the deal includes extending the statute of limitations to age 30 and giving other victims the ability to file a lawsuit by the end of 2020. Dennis Welch, the political editor for CBS5 News and 3TV, reported on Twitter that lawsuit filed by people who are otherwise time-barred must have “clear and convincing evidence,” a high legal standard.

House Majority Leader Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, was directly involved in the negotiations and had previously supported counter-legislation that would have extended the statute of limitations but not allowed for a “window” in which many victims could file lawsuits. He wrote on Twitter Sunday that a deal was in place “protecting victims and the innocent.”

The AP noted that Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, is unlikely to receive any concessions on his dispute with Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican legislative leaders over changes to the state’s income tax code.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Capitol on Monday, despite the Memorial Day holiday. If the tentative deal holds and the budget is approved, the Legislature could also seek to end the legislative session as soon as Monday.

Jim Small
Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.

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