A key House lawmaker is demanding an apology from Sen. Paul Boyer over the tactics the Phoenix Republican has used to push his legislation giving victims of child sex abuse more time to sue their assailants.
Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, lashed out at Boyer on Thursday for suggesting that if fellow Republicans do not support his proposal the GOP will be seen as “covering for sexual predators.”
“That’s absurd,” Kern told Capitol Media Services. “I think he owes us an apology.”
Boyer, for his part, told Capitol Media Services that Kern shouldn’t hold his breath waiting for him to say he’s sorry. He said Kern – and some of his fellow Republicans – earned the insult by blocking his plan by saying they have to consider not only the rights of victims but also the rights of those who are sued, including organizations and institutions that have hired the alleged predators.
“If Anthony Kern can explain to me where there’s a constitutional right to protect businesses, then we can talk,” he said.
That leaves Boyer with his plan to expand the time victims have to sue, on which he has been unable to get a vote, and Kern supporting an alternative that Boyer considers little more than window dressing.
The stalemate – Boyer’s word for it – complicates efforts to take Arizona out of the category as being one of the worst states for victims of child sex abuse, at least as far as being able to sue their assailants. Current law says the right to sue ends on the person’s 20th birthday.
It also throws a monkey wrench into adoption of an $11.8 billion state budget.
Boyer and Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, said they will not vote for the spending plan if the proposal to expand the opportunity for victims to sue does not get a vote. And without their support there are not enough Senate Republicans to secure approval.
The battle comes down to how much time beyond someone’s 20th birthday – the current state law – victims should have to sue.
Boyer originally sought to allow new cases to be brought within seven years of someone realizing they have been victimized, defined in statute as reporting the incident to a health professional. He said there is research to show that the average age for reporting such crimes is about 48.
Kern, by contrast, is backing a proposal by House Speaker Rusty Bowers to extend the age of filing, but only to 30 and not beyond, no matter when they discover they have been victimized. That is the bill he shepherded through the Rules Committee after refusing to allow victims to testify.
Boyer came came back with what he said is a compromise: A cutoff at age 35 – but with a one-year window after the bill takes effect to allow new lawsuits by those for whom the time to file already has passed.
Kern is not interested.
“All of us, Republicans and Democrats, are for helping victims,” he said. But Kern doubled down on his prior statements that the Boyer measure is less about victims and more about profits for lawyers.
“I do not trust, personally, attorneys out there,” he said, saying that it is really law firms and not victims that are behind the legislation.
Boyer called Kern’s objections “disingenuous.”
Kern’s opposition to Boyer’s proposal is not the only problem with coming up with a resolution of the question of how much time victims should have to sue. Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said he, too, will not support the compromise that Boyer is offering.