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New Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Funds in Jeopardy

A bill that would increase funding to Virginia’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, as well as establish a child abuse prevention training program in elementary schools has stalled in a House of Delegates committee.  The Commonwealth's two Internet Crimes Against Children task forces, or ICACs, which track and prosecute child sexual predators, are funded by a $10 fee on all felony convictions statewide.  Democratic state Senator Creigh Deeds patroned legislation in the Senate that would increase this fee from $10 to $15 dollars. A total of 96 percent of the new funds would go to the ICACs and 4 percent to an 8-hour child abuse prevention training for elementary school students as part of their phys-ed curriculum.  Republican Delegate Ben Cline of Rockbridge introduced the House version of the bill.  Camille Cooper, Director of Legislative Affairs with the National Organization to Protect Children, says the ICACs do great work, but need more boots on the ground.  House Public Safety Committee Chairman Scott Lingamfelter opposes the fee increase. He says fee collections this year brought in $2.8 million, compared to the 2.4 predicted in the budget. In addition he points to a $4.1 million investment from former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office out of funds from last year’s settlement with Abbott labs.  This money went to a regional lab for undercover operations in Bedford, and to build a new child abuse image repository.  The bills had widespread bipartisan support, but Lingamfelter referred them to Appropriations where Chairman Chris Jones declined to schedule them for a hearing.  Lingamfelter says the ICACs need personally to make their case by showing where the existing dollars are doing the most good and where new dollars would be the most help.  Now that the bills have stalled in the House, the Senate has included the funding in its budget.  Jones did not respond to multiple requests for comment on weather these funds would be included in the final spending plan. (Due to digital delay, a few seconds of surrounding program may be heard.)