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Arizona lawmaker holds up budget to fight for victims of sex abuse

Posted at 5:45 PM, May 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-15 09:49:15-04

PHOENIX — During a lull in the session, Senate President Karen Fann hosted a viewing of the movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" for members. It's the story of an idealistic junior senator who goes on to fight his party's establishment.

Fann may be regretting her decision, or at least her choice of the movie. That's because one of her own, the junior senator from District 20 Republican Paul Boyer, is taking a stand against the Republican leadership and in the process threatening to wreak havoc on a proposed budget.

For Senator Boyer it seemed like a no brainer. After watching the trial of Larry Nassar, the doctor convicted of sexually abusing girls on the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team, Boyer wanted to find out what civil legal remedies child abuse victims had in Arizona. Turns out the statute of limitations for victims to sue is only two years. Boyer wants to change it to seven years from the time the victim discovers they were harmed.

His bill never got a hearing. "I am so confused. This should be a priority number one. This should be a no brainer," Boyer said. "This should be something all members are saying, instead of I'm going to kill your bill, what can I do to help."

So Boyer told everyone who was listening last week he will not vote on the budget until his bill gets a hearing.

His line in the sand occurred when the Senate voted on a bill allowing some sex offenders the opportunity to apply to be removed from the sex offender registry. "The short window in Arizona doesn't protect the victim. It protects the perpetrator," he said. "At the very least we should give the victim seven years from discovery. Seven years from when the victim knew they were harmed. And I'm not voting on the state budget until we do so.

Boyer voted no on the sex offender bill and the measure was defeated. More importantly, two senators, Victoria Steele, a Tucson Democrat and Heather Carter, a Republican from Cave Creek came out in support of Boyer. Republicans in the Senate can not afford to lose two votes on the budget, with Carter siding with Boyer they may have no choice but to negotiate with the Democrats. "If they had the votes they would have put it on the board already. They obviously don't have the votes." Boyer said.

During the floor debate last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Eddie Farnsworth said he feared Boyer's bill would extend the statute of limitations too far into the future. "I believe once you get to a certain point and the farther you're removed from the incident, the malfeasance, people don't remember correctly."

Boyer has seen no signs either Senator Farnsworth or Senate President Fann will give his bill a hearing. If they are waiting for him to break, he says they can keep waiting.

"They don't like it when a freshman senator comes and says hey here's the right thing and you need to do this."