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.
Key Deal points:
– Extends statute of limitations for victims from 20 years old to 30 years old.
– Gives older victims a deadline of December 2020 to file a civil case.
– The evidence must me clear and convincing.
— Dennis Welch (@dennis_welch) May 26, 2019
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.”
Prayer works and today prayers were answered. We have a deal that balances protecting victims and the innocent. Likely we wrap up soon. #AzBudget
— Warren Petersen (@votewarren) May 26, 2019
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.