AUSTIN - The Senate heard legislation today that will affect Texas pick-up truck drivers' ability to transport children in the back of their trucks on public roads. This bill prohibits children up to the age of 18 from riding in an open bed of a truck or a trailer at any speed. Current law prohibits children up to the age of 12 when the driver is going more than 35 miles per hour.
Lubbock Senator Robert Duncan sponsored Senate Bill (SB) 411, saying "This bill just makes sense that we should not allow kids to ride in the back of a pick-up and subject themselves to injury." Duncan says the law should be changed because most injuries occur when children are not restrained, not because the driver of the truck is speeding.
Senators added an amendment by Brownsville Senator Eddie Lucio Jr providing an exemption when a pick-up truck is the only source of transportation for a household. Lucio was especially concerned about families in the Rio Grande Valley. The bill also includes exemptions for transporting farm workers. Duncan expects more exemptions will be added once the bill gets to the House. The bill was left pending on final passage.
Plano Senator Florence Shapiro sponsored the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 33, which increases penalties for people promoting child pornography. Current law says possession and promotion of child pornography have the same level of punishment, a 3rd degree felony. Shapiro said, "We all know that promotion of child pornography is a more heinous crime and that's why we've elevated it to a second degree felony."
Adults soliciting minors, especially through the Internet, are a nationwide problem. Under current law, police officers who monitor Internet chat rooms and are solicited, cannot arrest a perpetrator because no crime has been committed. Soliciting a minor is a crime under current law but to solicit someone you assume is a minor is not. This bill creates an offense so, similar to prostitution, soliciting a police officer will have a penalty. Federal law already includes similar provisions and Shapiro wants Texas to catch up.
Shapiro said "It's a fairly severe problem. That portion of the bill came to me from several prosecutors across the state because they were very concerned that there are some things going on federally that we can't take advantage of in the State of Texas and this will give us that opportunity."
Lt. Governor Rick Perry announced this week's holiday schedule. The Senate will not meet Thursday, Friday or Monday, but will begin meeting regularly on Fridays after the Easter holiday.
The Senate will reconvene tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.