Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Two 2016 Virginia General Assembly Pages to Keep an Eye On

The 2016 Virginia General Assembly Session begins on Wednesday January 13th  in Richmond, VA. 

To stay up-to-date on the 2016 session here are two new pages (on the right side of the screen) in the Directory that you need to know about. 
The 2016 Bill/Legislation page will be updated weekly for now and then as the session begins I will update it daily, possibly multiple times a day. 

The 2016 Committee Member page is based on the information available from the 2015 session but then we have 18 newly elected Legislators that don’t officially take office until January who still need to be assigned to Committees mid-January so that page is NOT complete.

If you missed my earlier post on Getting Ready for the 2016 Virginia Session including the options available for Tracking Bills go here 

All Action Items, Alerts or Hearing Notices for the 2016 G.A. session will not be added to the GA Bill/Legislation page but instead they will be a “post” here on the Home page.  

Back on October 8th I mentioned in a post that I met with some Virginia Legislators over the summer to discuss “good” legislation for 2016 and I am expecting 1 to 4 bills to be sponsored in 2016. 

Thank you for you support and please, please take action on future Action Alerts ‘for’ and ‘against’ legislation.  

Mary Devoy

New Virginia Budget Portal
The new Virginia Budget Portal brings together budget resources from the General Assembly and other state agencies. Users can search resources to find content based on keywords and phrases; create spreadsheets and custom reports for printing or email. Visit the beta version of the Virginia Budget Portal.

The Online–Sex Predator Panic: Laws Against Online Luring Harm Children By Judith Levine

The Online–Sex Predator Panic
Laws Against Online Luring Harm Children
By Judith Levine
December 8, 2015

North Carolina’s Supreme Court just upheld a law making it a crime for a former sex offender to use social media that minors also use—that is, any social media. 

In New Hampshire a judge rejected the appeal of Owen Labrie’s conviction for using a computer to “lure” a fifteen-year-old girl into sex. If Labrie, the prep school senior whose rape trial made national headlines, had called the girl on the phone instead of making arrangements on Facebook and by text, he would not have been breaking the law. The computer-related conviction will put the nineteen-year-old on the sex offender registry for life; he could also serve years in prison.   

And the district attorney in Cañon City, Colorado, is mulling over whom, among a hundred or so high school students caught trading naked pictures of themselves via smartphone, to prosecute on child pornography charges. 

Laws such as these, against “electronic solicitation of a minor” and online trading of child pornography, are troublesome for many reasons. For one thing, they are easy to abuse in order to load on penalties when the state is frustrated by an acquittal or lesser conviction than it sought. That is what happened in New Hampshire, where Labrie was acquitted of felony sexual assault but found guilty of misdemeanor statutory rape. 

For another, because we all increasingly—and kids almost exclusively—rely on social media to conduct our family, social, business, and, yes, sexual lives, enforcement of these laws would require NSA-like blanket surveillance and would seriously damage freedom of speech. Indeed, challengers to North Carolina’s law argue that it is an unconstitutional curtailment of sex offenders’ First Amendment rights.

And then there are the patent absurdities created by such laws—signs that legislators, in search of novel ways to torture so-called sex offenders, have abandoned consideration of efficacy or justice. In the case of underage sexting, for instance, a person is both offender and victim at the same time.
But here is the deeper problem: the online offender statutes—not to mention press coverage, social analysis, education, parenting advice, and general fretting that go with them—are built on nothing but fear.