Legislative commission to examine child sex abuse in works
HARRISBURG - House and Senate leaders are creating a special legislative commission to examine the official response to the child sex abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University and framework of state laws protecting children from sex crimes.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-28, Pittsburgh, announced plans for the commission on the House floor Wednesday afternoon. Turzai's comments came after meetings this week with Gov. Tom Corbett, administration officials and other legislative leaders to discuss the idea.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, Chester, said his conversations with Corbett and other leaders have focused on finding a "bipartisan, bicameral approach to addressing the issues raised by the Penn State child abuse indictments."
"I am committed to a thoughtful process that produces stronger protections for children across the state," added Pileggi.
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-33, Allegheny County, said the commission should be independent, impartial and equipped with subpoena power to compel witnesses to testify.
"The non-legislative members must not be involved in conducting the current criminal investigation, nor should the commission include anyone who was part of that investigation at any earlier point," Dermody said.
The reference is to Corbett in his previous role as state attorney general and other prosecutors who launched an investigation of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky in 2009 after getting a case referral from the Centre County district attorney, said Dermody spokesman Bill Patton.
Efforts to reach Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley were unsuccessful.
A state grand jury report earlier this month led to criminal charges against Sandusky for sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years. Penn State officials Gary Schultz and Tim Curley have been charged with perjury before a state grand jury and failing to report child sex abuse.
The commission, which will likely include the chairs of the House and Senate committees overseeing judiciary and child welfare issues as well as outside members, would be formed after an enabling resolution is approved by both chambers.
The goal is take a deliberative look at whether existing laws are strong enough, whether any loopholes exist and whether new laws are needed, said Turzai spokesman Stephen Miskin.
"I think it's important to get to the bottom of what happened," said Rep. Mike Carroll, D-118, Hughestown. "I think a thorough evaluation of existing law and a review of changes is a prudent thing to do."
A special interbranch commission involving the legislative, executive and judicial branches was created in 2009 to examine the breakdown of the juvenile justice system in Luzerne County.
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