News Release from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nick Almanza
(512) 463-0121
February 21, 2007

Senator Zaffirini Files Bill to Protect Texas Children from Internet Predators

AUSTIN -- Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed legislation on Wednesday (Feb. 21) to protect Texas children and families from internet predators and cyberstalkers. Part of Lt. Governor David Dewhurst's priority legislative package, Senate Bill 6 by Zaffirini significantly will strengthen laws aimed at preventing online child exploitation and cyberstalking, or the use of the internet as means to stalk and harass.

Protecting against internet crimes, exploitation and online solicitation of minors are top priorities outlined in the lieutenant governor's Texas Children First plan, which promotes a safe and healthy environment for Texas children.

"This bill will protect children, improve public safety and ease concerned parents who want stronger laws to prevent and punish internet crimes in Texas," Senator Zaffirini said. "According to the Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment, 45 percent of children nationwide are active online -- more than 30 million who are younger than 18. With more than 560,000 sex offenders registered nationally, we must enhance the safety of our young internet users and punish online predators appropriately."

SB 6 will require internet service providers (ISP) to comply fully with a uniform 48-hour time period to respond to subpoenas, search warrants or other court orders pertaining to the online solicitation of a minor. It will allow prosecutors to seek consecutive prison sentences for the online solicitation of a minor; make the penalty for a conviction of online sexual solicitation of a minor a second degree felony; increase penalties for sexually explicit online communication with a minor; use state rewards programs to emphasize reporting and apprehending predators and criminals; and create a clearinghouse of ISP contact information in the Attorney General's office so prosecutors can access important information necessary to prevent online predatory behavior.

"I want to thank Senator Zaffirini for her leadership and for her commitment to protecting our children," Lt. Governor Dewhurst said. "SB 6 is an important part of my Texas Children First plan and sends a strong message that Texas is serious about stopping child predators on the internet, as well as in our schools and neighborhoods."

SB 6 builds on Senator Zaffirini's legislation that protects families from online crimes. In 2005 she authored and passed SB 327, the Consumer Protection Against Spyware Act, which made it unlawful for a person or entity to knowingly install spyware. Attorney General Greg Abbott announced last December that a lawsuit based on SB 327 resulted in a multimillion dollar settlement with Sony BMG Music, which installed harmful and problematic "spyware" on more than 100 compact discs sold to Texas consumers.

In 2005 Senator Zaffirini also sponsored and passed HB 1098 by Rep. Brian McCall, R-Plano, which prohibited internet "phishing" or fraudulent websites and e-mails sent to induce victims to divulge personal financial information.

This year she also filed SB 120, which would protect children from internet predators by establishing a clearinghouse of educational resources related to on-line safety at the Attorney General's office and directing school districts to update their discipline management program to prevent the use of the internet for sexual solicitation.

"Providing online users with safe internet services free from personal exploitation and protecting children and students from online predators are among my highest priorities. This is why I passed SB 327 and HB 1098 last session and filed SB 6 and SB 120 this year," Senator Zaffirini said. "I appreciate greatly Lt. Governor Dewhurst's leadership in providing our families with effective and earnest solutions that will prevent our children from becoming victims of online exploitation and solicitation. I look forward to passing these essential bills that will increase public safety throughout Texas."

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