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Beall tries again on bills for sex abuse victims

A South Bay lawmaker is taking another stab at legislation to allow more time for child-molestation prosecutions and civil lawsuits, after the governor vetoed his last effort.

Jim Beall“California must not allow sex abusers to turn the law on its head so they can continue to molest children,” state Sen. Jim Beall said in a news release Wednesday. “Changing both the criminal and civil statutes of limitations will give victims more time to report crimes and allow the justice system to get child molesters off the streets.”

Beall, D-San Jose, said medical research has found trauma inflicted on childhood sex abuse victims can result in memory loss and severely affect their ability to report the crime to authorities. “But the law fails to recognize pedophiles are using that psychological harm to help them hide from justice,” he said. “We can’t allow this injustice to continue.”

Beall’s new SB 926 would reform the criminal statute of limitations by raising the age at which an adult survivor of childhood sex abuse can seek prosecution from 28 to 40 years. The bill would affect sex crimes against children including lewd and lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, and other offenses.

And SB 924 would reform the two standards that now govern the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits. It would increase the age deadline – the age by which the victim must make a causal connection to his or her trauma – from 26 years old to 40. And it would increase the time in which to sue after discovering the link between a psychological injury and childhood sexual abuse from three years to five, starting from when a physician or psychologist first informs the victim of the link.

Both laws are co-authored by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach.

Beall last year carried SB 131, which would have applied retroactively to a small number of adult survivors of abuse, letting them sue the organizations that harbored their abusers. The bill was passed by the Assembly on a 44-15 vote and by the state Senate on a 21-8 vote, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it.

In an unusually lengthy veto message, Brown wrote “there comes a time when an individual or organization should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits,” given that evidence can be lost, memories can fade and witnesses can become unavailable over time. “This extraordinary extension of the statute of limitations, which legislators chose not to apply to public institutions, is simply too open-ended and unfair.”

Beall noted his new bills apply to both to public and private entities and will be applied starting Jan. 1, not retroactively, if they become law.

He had bitterly criticized Brown for vetoing last year’s bill, calling the governor’s “policy paper” on the importance of statutes of limitations a step backward for the state and a smack in the face for victims. “Saturday was a sad day for sexual abuse victims who clearly got the message that the governor is not on their side,” Beall said at the time.

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Jim Beall | No Comments »

Transit strike ban bill dies on party-line vote

A bill to ban all California public transit workers from going on strike died on a party-line committee vote Monday.

SB 423 by state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, had gone first to the Senate Public Employees and Retirement Committee. There, senators Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; and Marty Block, D-San Diego, all voted against it, while senators Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, and Ted Gaines, R-Granite Bay, voted for it.

BART strike (AP photo)Huff suggested in a news release that the bill should’ve been heard first by the Senate Transportation Committee, since it’s all about making sure our transit systems actually work for the public.”

“But instead it was sent to the committee that focuses on the concerns of public workers,” he said. “That should tell you something about the priorities of the majority party.”

“Last year Californians witnessed the Bay Area come to a screeching halt not once, but twice, as leaders of the BART employee union called strikes and BART trains went dark,” Huff said in a news release. “Hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents could not get to work, go to school, see the doctor, or visit with family and friends and it cost the region $73 million each day. We have made the public rely on public transit, but as a legislature, we have failed to make public transit reliable. That’s a major failure. Californians deserve a government that works for everyone but today they were let down.”

Huff in September had gutted and amended SB 423 to compel BART workers to honor the no-strike clause in their contracts even after those contracts expire. But he only amended the bill on the last working day of the legislative session, so no action was taken.

He later amended the bill further to ban strikes by all California public transit workers, with anyone who violates the ban subject to removal or other disciplinary action. Huff said the bill provided “a fair violation determination process” for such workers, but if a violation is found, such workers would lose two days of pay for every day of strike. Public transit unions similarly would have been banned from instigating strikes, and if the Public Employee Relations Board found a violation, that union’s rights would have been forfeited for an indefinite period; after three years of forfeiture, an employee organization could have sought reinstatement by the Legislature.

UPDATE @ 1:11 P.M.: Beall says he voted against the bill because it “just was not solution-oriented. It offered nothing to resolve the underlying bargaining issues that separate employees and management or to keep both sides at the table, such as binding arbitration.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
Under: Bob Huff, California State Senate, Jim Beall, Leland Yee, Mimi Walters, Transportation | 3 Comments »

Beall’s sex-abuse victim bill goes to Brown’s desk

A bill to re-open a window so certain sexual-abuse victims can sue the organizations that put them at risk is headed for Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

The state Senate on Friday concurred in Assembly amendments to SB 131 by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, which closes a gap that has prevented certain victims from seeking restitution.

A 2003 law that passed the Legislature with unanimous votes had expanded the statute of limitations for victims to file claims against third parties who knew their employees were a danger to children but still allowed them to work with kids. It gave victims over age 26 the opportunity to sue if they discovered their emotional and physical problems stemmed from the abuse they suffered as children, giving them three years from the time of discovery to file lawsuits. It also opened a one-year window – from 2003 to 2004 – for victims who were previously barred from filing.

But that law didn’t do anything for victims over 26 who made connection between their abuse and their problems after 2004. If signed into law, SB 131 would let those people sue and seek restitution in 2014.

The bill had been opposed by groups including the California Association of Private School Organizations, California Catholic Conference, California Council of Nonprofit Organizations and California State Alliance of YMCA.

“I want to thank my colleagues who had the courage to stand up for the victims of sexual abuse despite intense opposition,’’ Beall said in a news release today. “California must not retreat in the fight against child abuse. We are moving forward for the sake of the victims and for justice. SB 131 accomplishes that. It will make organizations accountable for knowingly protecting employees who sexually abused children in the work place.’’

The state Senate passed the bill 21-10 in May; the Assembly passed it 44-15 on Wednesday; and the state Senate concurred 21-8 on Friday.

Posted on Friday, September 6th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Jim Beall | 7 Comments »