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Justice should not be put on hold by ‘human error’

Falling back on “human error” is cold comfort to some victims of child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania who must now wait at least another two years before they can pursue legal cases. But that seems the best officials can come up with as they try to explain how a proposed state constitutional amendment that would allow lawsuits for otherwise outdated claims was never advertised and therefore cannot appear on the ballot this spring.

“The delay caused by this human error will be heartbreaking for thousands of survivors of childhood sexual assault, advocates and legislators, and I join the Department of State in apologizing to you,” Gov. Tom Wolf said.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is stepping down, as both Democrats and Republicans express their anger and frustration over the omission.

House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton is proposing a fast-track approach that would require two-thirds votes of each chamber. If that proved successful, a voter referendum could occur after one month.

“At best, this was incompetence,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre. “At worst, this was malfeasance.”

Senate Republicans say they are going to investigate; the Wolf administration says it will install new controls and tracking. After all, other proposed amendments were properly advertised and passed during the last legislative session. What was different here?

The measure has overwhelming support from across the political spectrum. Republicans’ only argument with the idea appeared to be that its implementation required a constitutional amendment, rather than simple passage of legislation.

But the measure that would give victims of childhood sexual abuse another window for taking legal action is opposed primarily by two groups, according to the Associated Press: Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic bishops and the insurance industry, which claims its premiums have never accounted for the potential for that kind of liability.

Despite those objections, Pennsylvania lawmakers should do their best to pursue the fast-track option, while Wolf cleans up whatever “mistakes” were made.

For victims who have already had to wait too long, justice should not remain on hold.

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