According to the LA Times, California governor Jerry Brown has vetoed SB 131 on grounds of fairness to public and private institutions.
This bill would have basically allow victims of sexual abuse in California a longer window in which to file civil (not criminal) claims against their abusers and other parties. According to the Times, in his veto letter, Brown primarily addressed the fact that the bill would only open private organizations and institutions to lawsuits, while leaving public institutions like schools free from risk.
- California Bill SB 131 Passes Assembly Despite USA Swimming; Catholic Church Lobbying.
- California Senate Confirms Amendments to SB 131; Sends Governor for Signature.
This bill was opposed by lobbying firms representing many private organizations, including USA Swimming, the local dioceses of the Catholic Church, the YMCA, and the Boy Scouts of America on the same grounds by which Brown veto’d the bill, saying that it gave unfair protection to public entities.
The bill’s drafter, Democratic Sen. James Beall from San Jose, spoke out against Brown’s veto, as did several child protection organizations.
The last time a similar bill was passed, in 2002, it resulted in $1.2 billion of additional lawsuit payouts. The primary voiced oppositions, from groups like USA Swimming, has included that the bill does “not hold the abusers accountable” and “excludes governmental agencies“.
Many organizations, including USA Swimming, have said that they are concerned that the bill doesn’t actually do anything to further protect children. A statement by the Catholic Bishops of California believe that it only opens the Church and “other not-for-profit organizations” to unlimited liability.
The fear from many politicians is that the lawsuits could potentially destroy many organizations that are American institutions, like the Boy Scouts, with huge financial hits. The justification from Beall and others behind the bill is that victims of sexual abuse don’t always manifest the full psychological implications until many years after they are abused, and so victims should be able to sue when these after-effects first begin to appear.
It would take a two-thirds vote of both houses to override Gov. Brown’s veto. In the assembly, it was passed with 44 ‘yes’ votes, 15 ‘no’ votes, and 19 ‘other’ votes. That’s less than a two-thirds majority. In the senate, it received 21 ‘yes’ votes, 10 ‘no’ votes, and 8 ‘other’ votes, also less than a two-thirds majority.
(Source for voting: openstates.org.)
Update: USA Swimming declined to comment on the veto.