LAWMAKERS ADDRESS ISSUE OF ‘SEXTING’
The Senate Criminal Law Committee tackled the issue of “sexting,” a growing social trend where explicit photos or video are sent via cell phone or e-mail to someone else. The legislation focuses on people younger than 18, as sexting has become increasingly prevalent among young people in recent years.
Currently, there is little that can be done to address sexting aside from pursuing felony child pornography charges—which prosecutors are reluctant to do. On February 24, the Committee passed Senate Bill 2513, which seeks to create a middle ground.
Under the legislation, minors who electronically send indecent images of themselves can be brought into juvenile court for a proceeding to determine if they are in need of supervision. If a young person is found to be in need of supervision, he or she could be ordered into counseling or other supportive services. They may also be ordered to complete community service.
Senate Bill 2513 also makes it a misdemeanor crime for any person, regardless of their age, to possess an explicit visual image transmitted to them by a minor. This controversial provision sparked concern that the creator and sender of the image could be found to have committed a lesser offense, while the person who received the unsolicited image would be guilty of a higher penalty. However, there would be no possession offense if the person receiving the image takes reasonable steps to eliminate the image within a reasonable time.
Questions were raised about whether the issue of sexting is best handled by parents and educators. There are also ways for a minor to get around the legislation simply by having friends take the picture and then having them send it to someone else. Nonetheless, the bill was passed by the Committee and now proceeds to the Senate for consideration.
SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM UNDER FIRE
On February 24, the Senate approved legislation targeting the state’s controversial legislative scholarship program, which has come under fire after media reports revealed that General Assembly scholarships had been awarded to students who are family members of campaign contributors or influential acquaintances.
Senate Bill 365 would allow a legislator to opt out of the legislative scholarship program. The measure also prohibits a legislator from nominating a person for a scholarship if that person or an immediate family member has made a campaign contribution to the lawmaker who would award the scholarship at any time during the last five years. The bill also requires the individual nominated to have already been admitted to a state-supported university.
A number of lawmakers argued that the program should be eliminated completely to avoid future improprieties, though many noted that Senate Bill 365 is a good first step. Opponents of the legislation contend that the scholarships provide much-needed resources for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college.
MOVING THE PRIMARY ELECTION BACK TO MARCH
Members of the Senate also passed Senate Bill 355 to move the general primary election from February to the third Tuesday of March in even-numbered years.
Currently, Illinois’ primary election is the earlier in the nation. The primary date was moved to February a couple of years ago to benefit Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential bid.
Lawmakers voted February 24 to return the primary date to mid-March, saying that reinstating the March primary date will help increase voter turnout and improve the overall process.