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House committee approves bill eliminating statute of limitations for child sex abuse lawsuits

House committee approves bill eliminating statute of limitations for child sex abuse lawsuits

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Victims of childhood sexual assault would have no time limit on pressing civil suits against their attackers under legislation advanced Tuesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 1002, by Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, would also allow up to 30 years for suits against "an entity, institution, organization, agency, firm, business, or corporation" with some responsibility for the injury.

The bill would also allow a five-year "window" for filing previously time-barred actions.

"The whole purpose of this is to let the ... survivors have their day to confront their perpetrator," said Bush. "Many times they're not going to do this, but it's empowering them to know that they can."

Bush said the bill is likely to undergo some changes before it reaches a final form.

The House Judiciary-Civil Committee sent HB 1002 to the House floor on a unanimous vote.

Also Tuesday: Graduating high school would require passing the civics portion of the test given candidates for naturalization under a bill approved by the House Common Education Committee.

Rep. Terry O'Donnell, R-Catoosa, said HB 2030 is intended to cure Oklahomans' lack of basic knowledge about government and history.

Several educators on the committee — all Democrats — said the bill's intent is good but is likely to have unintended consequences.

"I would say our basic students do not have a very good understanding of how our government works or they wouldn't be holding violent protests and claiming that's a First Amendment right because it clearly is not."

O'Donnell read several of the test's questions, including "How many stars are on the U.S. flag?" and "From what country did the U.S. win  independence?"

"These are not taxing questions," he said.

The committee also approved an "open transfer" bill intended to allow students to leave any district any time as long as the receiving district has room and the student does not have a history of disciplinary problems or absenteeism.

HB 2074, by Speaker Charles McCall and carried by Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow, would prevent districts from refusing out-bound transfers. Boles said around 8% of transfer applications in recent years have been denied, but it is unclear how many of those would have been approved under his proposal.

Boles said he believes more students would seek transfers if the legislation is approved.

The House committee overseeing elections advanced legislation that would add a day to the early voting period but only for presidential elections, while giving a hard no to a Democratic proposal to discontinue straight party voting.

The Republican majority also continued to attack the initiative and petition process by sending to the floor a measure that would require questions submitted to a vote of the people to carry a fiscal impact statement.

As currently written, HB 1767, by Rep. Eric Roberts, R-Oklahoma City, seems to only require a statement that the measure in question would have a fiscal impact but not necessarily an amount. It also doesn't seem to say who would determine whether the measure has an impact or what would happen if the assessment turns out to be wrong.

The measure would also apply to state questions submitted to the people by the Legislature, although Roberts indicated his bill is a reaction to State Question 802, whose narrow passage last  year requires the state to implement expanded Medicaid.

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