PHOENIX — A veteran state lawmaker is threatening to hold up the state budget until he gets a vote on his plan to give victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to sue their alleged assailants.
Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, said he has more than enough support to get approval of at least some version of Senate Bill 1255 and send it to the governor. But the people who chair two key committees have refused to give the bill a hearing.
So Boyer has decided to use a lawmaker’s ultimate weapon: refuse to support the one thing the Legislature has to enact by June 30.
By himself that might not make a difference, as Republicans hold a 17-13 edge in the Senate. But Boyer said he is lining up others who share his views and will have enough to make the threat stick.
There are other Republicans who already are unhappy with some of the budget demands being made by Gov. Doug Ducey. Boyer’s objection adds to the opposition.
Current law gives victims two years after they turn 18 to file civil claims of rape and sex abuse. Boyer said some people do not realize until their 40s, while undergoing counseling, how they were harmed by things done to them.
He said the bill provides an opportunity to publicly call out and sue those who may still be in positions of authority over children — and may, in fact, still be abusing children.
For now, at least, GOP leaders in the Senate and the House are showing no sign of overriding the decisions by committee chairs who would not advance Boyer’s measure.
Boyer said he recognizes the risk that if he tries to hold up the budget process and fails, he will marginalize his role and his ability to make other demands.
“In my seven years, I’ve never done this before, until now,” he said. “It’s that important.”
Boyer said he’s willing to compromise.
His original plan would have created a seven-year statute of limitations — in other words, until age 25 — to file a civil suit. There appears to be little objection to that.
More controversial is his proposal to create a two-year “window” for anyone who is older to also file suit — even if the abuse occurred decades before the law was changed — with that two years running from the point a victim knows or should have known he or she has been harmed.
Now, Boyer said he is willing to close that window. But he still wants the bill to say people can file lawsuits within seven years of discovering abuse, no matter how old they are when they come to that conclusion.
The open-ended nature for possible claims bothers Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Farnsworth said that paves the way for lawsuits to be filed decades later, when witnesses are dead, memories have faded and records have long since been destroyed.