Grandstanding and pontificating are standard fare in the Arizona Legislature. Multiple hot topics — mask mandates, voter suppression, abortion, the border, child abuse, and others — have sparked lengthy debates.
This video is a follow-up to the one I made after my “no” vote on Rep. Leo Biasiucci’s mandatory sentencing bill for multiple levels of child abuse, HB2889, and the subsequent social media splash.
If we really want to help child sexual abuse victims, we should bring back Senator Paul Boyer’s bill from 2019 which lengthens the time period to report past abuse. Arizona is not soft on sentencing pedophiles, but it is soft on reporting child sexual abuse. Boyer educated us by telling us that Arizona had the most lenient laws in the country￼ for pedophiles. He said Arizona law “protected predators, not victims.” Adults who had been abused in the past had only 2 years after age 18 to report abuse as a child and identify abusers. Boyer’s original raised the age limit for past complaints from 20 to 30 and added a 1-2 year window for older people to report past abusers. After a long battle, a watered down version of Boyer’s bill passed in 2019. Let’s lengthen that window and go after the long-term pedophiles who are lurking in our churches, schools, youth organizations, sports teams and work. Former victims deserve their day in court.
Prison and sentencing reform have been major bipartisan issues in the Arizona House for the past few years. Although there has been much bipartisan effort and many bills proposed, pretty much everything was stopped at the committee level by former Legislators and Judiciary Chairs John Allen and Eddie Farnsworth.
Those two are both gone. Rep. Walt Blackman’s Criminal Justice Committee has passed several good bills on prison reform, sentencing reform, and prison oversight.￼ Several of them have passed the full house.
Unfortunately, the House is passing mandatory sentencing bills at the same time as we are advancing reform.￼ I was the only person who voted against HB2889.
Rep. Leo Biasiucci’s HB2889 is all about punishment. It ignores the fact that most people in prison were abused children. Focusing on punishment — while ignoring prevention, rehabilitation, and expansion of victims’ rights to report past abuse — won’t solve this problem. In fact, Senator Paul Boyer’s child abuse reporting bill from 2019 — which Republicans fought vehemently against — would do a lot more to catch chronic abusers who roam amongst us. Even after passing a watered down version of Boyer’s bill, Arizona law still severely restricts reporting past abuse and protects pedophiles, not victims. I fully support adoption of Boyer’s original bill which gave past abused children to age 30 to report past abuse.
It is shocking how party loyalty can get in the way of doing what’s right for the people of Arizona.
Today, the House Appropriations Committee debated lengthening Arizona’s statute of limitations to report child sexual abuse from a two years (after you turn 18) to twelve years. It also allows for a one or two year window after the bill passes in which any past victims (whose time to complain had run out) can come forward and file a complaint related to past child abuse. The Appropriations Chair sponsored the strike everything to SB1101 but didn’t want to bring it up for a vote— only discussion— but the agenda didn’t say “discussion only.”
Senator Paul Boyer, who sponsored the original bill to lengthen the time to report, spoke in favor on a vote in the bill. He said that Arizona is an “outlier” in child sexual assault and has the most restrictive reporting statutes in the US.
Senator Eddie Farsworth, who stopped Boyer’s original bill as chair of Senate Judiciary, spoke strongly against the bill and complained about lack of decorum and respect for the process. (Ahem… we hear and vote on half-baked strike everything bills ALL THE TIME.)
After lengthy debate with the Dems standing up for victims and Republicans standing with Farnsworth and Cobb, Rep. Diego Espinoza made a motion to overrule the chair and bring a vote on SB1101. Unfortunately, since the 11-person committee has only four Democrats, the motion failed, and all seven Republicans votes to back Cobb and Farnsworth and to throw victims under the bus.