Friday, January 13, 2017

SB1278 is Patroned by a Virginia Senator Who Did NOT Read the Book Refining Child Pornography Law: Crime, Language, and Social Consequences by Carissa Byrne Hessick

There is a Companion Bill in the House its HB2039 Patroned by Jackson H. Miller. 

It posted in LIS on January 11th and at 8:21AM on 01/16 I received an email (because the VA House added email signup back in 2016, but the VA Senate doesn’t have it) that HB2039 is a last minute addition to the House Courts of Justice Criminal Sub-Committee agenda  for the early afternoon of 01/16.  

Less than 5 hours from the Bill being placed on the Committee agenda and the Committee gathering to hear the Bill. 

That’s not transparent, that's not Open Government! 


Original Post:

Not only did I post about it, I emailed my recommendation to all the Virginia Legislators and like in the post I ended the email with this “Before one more Child Pornography law is proposed, tweaked or even considered in Virginia, every Legislator, the Governor and the AG should read this book”.   

Well it seems my Senator Ryan T. McDougle didn’t read the book, hasn’t  considered any of the research I’ve  shared over the last 9 GA sessions but instead has decided to sponsor the below Bill. Why? Because Camille Cooper of PROTECT and Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Rusty McGuire (who I ran into outside Senator McDougle's office) want to reverse the Virginia Criminal Sentencing’s recent change that slightly lowered the sentencing for “Possession” of Child Pornography. 

Now I’m worried that a “Companion Bill” is going to pop-up in the House. 

SB1278 -Discretionary sentencing guideline midpoints; possession of child pornography 

Bill Text as Introduced:
Raises the midpoint of the recommended sentencing range for possession of child pornography by (i) 100 percent in cases in which the defendant has no previous conviction of a violent felony offense; (ii) 200 percent in cases in which the defendant has previously been convicted of a violent felony offense punishable by a maximum punishment of less than 40 years; and (iii) 400 percent in cases in which the defendant has previously been convicted of a violent felony offense punishable by a maximum punishment of 40 years or more. The bill also requires a court that imposes a sentence that is less than the midpoint of the sentencing guidelines to review all child pornography possessed by the defendant. 

Fiscal Impact Statement (Cost to Implement and/or DOC Prison Bed/Space):
No Link yet, early estimate is $989,660 

You Can Cast Your Vote or Leave Public Comment on SB1278 @Richmond Sunlight

Oh, but the Bill text that you just read, has already been rewritten per Camille Cooper. But the public won’t know what those changes are until the Patron submits them as amendments to the Committee members seconds before the Bill is debated/discussed on the scheduled Committee docket.  

This is what I like to call “Decoy Text”.  

A Delegate or Senator submits a proposed Bill to LIS that they plan to or already have rewritten which could be a shadow of their original submission, but it has the same Bill #. By doing this no one who opposes their Bill can properly prepare an argument ahead of time, the opposition must come up with every possible issue and every proposed solution in less than 2 minutes while the Committee members are waiting for you to get your act together and yet the Patron has been prepared for days if not weeks or months. 

In fact Amendments of any scale (small or huge) do NOT have to be submitted to LIS ahead of time so that citizens monitoring the Bills online will know about the changes to contact their two Representatives in support or opposition of the changes. Then the changes are either approved by the Committee or not and it could be 8-24 hours before the new text is even online for citizens to know what was passed/voted on. Zero transparency! 

The $989,660 cost with the current Budget crisis would usually mean it doesn't have a chance but since the VCSC made the changes in sentencing in the last 12 months I don’t know if this cost really has to be budgeted-in, or not since we were spending almost that amount previously. 

I’ve had to deal with “Decoy Text” Bills before and trying to cover all the points without anytime to research or edit really stinks. You’re fumbling and stuttering and hours later you think of 10 more very important points you should have made but didn't. These tactics are meant to give the Patron the-edge while denying citizens the ability to participate in the Democratic process. 

I am still trying to decide if I will or won’t oppose SB1278 in Senate Courts of Justice Committee, if it passes out of there it's pretty much guaranteed to pass in House Courts of Justice. 
In the meantime anyone who opposes SB1278 (in it’s current state) please Email or call your one Virginia Delegate and your one Virginia Senator. 

Mary Davye Devoy