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Crime Commission Defers Action on Teen Sexting

The Virginia Crime Commission has deferred action on teen sexting until next year, saying it needs more time to study the problem.

The Crime Commission had considered lowering criminal sentences for minors who send self produced nude images via text message or other electronic means, exempting them from prosecution under child pornography laws aimed at adult predators.

Camille Cooper, legislative director of the national child advocacy group PROTECT says Virginia’s sentencing data shows that juveniles are not receiving felony sentences for underage sexting.

Crime Commission Recommends Cigarette Retail Licenses and Fees

The Virginia Crime Commission is recommending that retailers who sell cigarettes be licensed to do so, in order to fight the growing problem of cigarette trafficking. The Alcoholic Beverage Control would administer the licenses.

36 other states require similar licenses with costs ranging from $60-$240 dollars. The licenses would only apply to cigarettes, not cigars or other tobacco products.

Tobacco Commission Awards Millions More Than Staff Recommends To Dominion

The Virginia Tobacco Commission gave away millions of dollars, more than what commission staff recommended, to help a politically connected power company. The Associated Press says commission staffers told the state inspector-general that the first of three $10 million installments paid to Dominion to help build a natural gas pipeline in Brunswick County should have been $6.5 million based on their calculations, and that they felt pressured by Governor Bob McDonnell’s office, though the inspector-general’s office did not find evidence to support that.

Saslaw to Introduce Bill to Require Universities to Report Rapes to Police

State Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw says he will introduce a bill in the upcoming General Assembly session that would require university officials with knowledge of a sexual assault on campus to report the incident to local police within 24 hours. Under Saslaw’s bill, campus officials and faculty who fail to report incidents of sexual assault would face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Saslaw says universities like UVA have no business adjudicating felonies.

Virginia’s Gasoline Tax to Increase to 18 Cents Per Gallon

With congressional action on the Marketplace Equity Act unlikely before the end of the year, Virginia’s gasoline tax will increase by seven cents per gallon on January 1st. Virginia’s billion-dollar transportation package passed in 2013 relies heavily on funds from the federal bill. The tax increase will automatically be enacted to cover the loss of those funds should Congress not act.

The Marketplace Fairness Act would require online retailers to collect and remit state sales tax just like all brick and mortar businesses.

Longtime Republican Senator Watkins Won’t Seek Re-election

Longtime Republican State Senator John Watkins of Powhatan is retiring after 34 years in the General Assembly, announcing he will not seek re-election in 2015. Watkins is one of a shrinking number of moderate Republicans in the Senate amid a growing group of younger more conservative members. He helped forge compromises to pass the first major transportation investment in two decades and to fully fund the Virginia retirement system. Senator Watkins says staying in the middle ground has gotten harder in recent years.

Governor Warns Of “Huge Headwinds” In State Budget

Governor McAuliffe says Virginia’s economy is in a “very perilous situation” with potential federal defense cuts looming. The Governor is working on his spending plan due next month highlighted by 322 million in red ink. And he says he’s open to eliminating tax relief programs to balance the budget, including rolling back a program that partially offsets Virginia’s car tax.

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