Texas Legislature 2019

Bill lengthening amount of time child sex abuse victims can sue heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk

The House initially exempted churches and nonprofits from the extended statute of limitations, but the chamber agreed to include them Friday after sex assault victims pushed back.

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, speaks at a press conference after the testimony of Tasha Schwikert, Alyssa Baumann and Jordan Schwikert, three gymnasts who say they were abused by USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar. The three women testified on House Bill 3809 during a May 13 Senate State Affairs Committee hearing.

Texas Legislature 2019

The 86th Legislature runs from Jan. 8 to May 27. From the state budget to health care to education policy — and the politics behind it all — we focus on what Texans need to know about the biennial legislative session.

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A proposal at the Texas Legislature that would give victims of child sexual abuse more time to sue their abusers and the organizations they were affiliated with is headed to the governor’s desk.

House Bill 3809, filed by state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, would let people file civil lawsuits against alleged abusers 30 years after the victims turn 18. Current law only allows for a 15-year threshold to sue. That lengthened statute of limitations would apply to culpable entities, a provision the Senate added back into the legislation after the House stripped language related to those institutions from the bill.

Goldman moved to concur with the Senate’s version of the bill Friday, with members signing off on it unanimously.

Goldman’s bill first surfaced in April, when Becky Leach, wife of state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, shared her story of child sexual abuse before the House committee chaired by her husband. At that hearing, Becky Leach, who testified for the bill, said she wanted to use her experience to help others who haven’t yet come forward.

Last month, however, before the House unanimously passed the bill, Goldman amended the legislation in a way that would not apply the lengthened statute of limitations to institutions. At the time, he told the Houston Chronicle that “sexual assault is not something organizations do, it’s what individuals do.”

When the bill went to the Senate for consideration, a trio of former gymnasts who said they were abused by Larry Nassar, a former doctor for the U.S. women’s Olympics gymnastics team, argued that stripping such entities from the legislation would only perpetuate the cycle of abuse. The senator spearheading the measure in the upper chamber then restored language including entities to the legislation. The amended legislation unanimously passed the Senate earlier this week.