Harrisburg, PA: Feb. 1, 2021 -The Department of State today apologized for failing to advertise a proposed constitutional amendment first passed by the legislature in November 2019, HB 963, which could have been considered this month for second consideration.
Under the state constitution, after first passage, the wording of a proposed constitutional amendment must be advertised in two newspapers in every county, in each of the three months before the next general election at which members of the General Assembly are elected. This advertising did not occur, as required, in the lead-up to the 2020 general election.
The proposed constitutional amendment would extend retroactively the timeline victims have to file civil action against their abusers.
The department offers a sincere apology to the victims impacted by this oversight and the delay that will be caused, as well as to all those working to pass this measure. Department staff advertised other proposed constitutional amendments passed during the last legislative session, but through simple human error mistakenly failed to include this proposed constitutional amendment in the advertisements. In preparing for the potential second passage this month, DOS staff noticed late last week that the amendment was not previously advertised.
The proposed amendment passed around the same time as a related three-bill package that included House Bill 962, which provided for prospective statute of limitations reforms, House Bill 1051, increasing penalties for failure to report child abuse by a mandated reporter, and House Bill 1171, which makes conversations with law enforcement agents exempt from non-disclosure agreements. All of these reforms are in effect and are not impacted by this delay.
The department has instituted new controls to ensure that such failings will not occur in the future, including tracking of all constitutional amendments from the time they are filed, and direct notifications to additional department staff when they are signed, along with cross checks to ensure all required steps are carried out.
While the department will take every step possible to expedite efforts to move this initiative forward, the failure to advertise the proposed constitutional amendment means the process to amend the constitution must now start from the beginning.
Proposed constitutional amendments must pass in two consecutive sessions of the state Legislature, and must be advertised after each passage, after which the proposal is put to the voters in a statewide referendum.