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Gov. Scott signs bill easing 'sexting' punishment for minors

TALLAHASSEE — Florida law now has a section on "sexting."

Among 46 proposals Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Tuesday is a measure easing punishments on minors who send sexually explicit text messages, photos or videos via electronic data transmission, like cell phones.

Other additions address "dangerous" dogs and anti-abortion license plates. Scott signed the bills without comment.

Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, and Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, sponsored the sexting bill (HB 75) to shield children who send risque texts from being prosecuted for big-time offenses, like child-pornography distribution.

Under the law, first-time violations come with a $60 fine or eight hours of community service. Subsequent violations have harsher penalties. A second offense is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Scott also signed into law a priority of Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa. Norman sponsored a bill (SB 722) that protects dogs found as part of animal-fighting rings from being automatically classified as "dangerous."

Those dogs will be evaluated individually to determine eligibility for rehabilitation and adoption, leading supporters to hope the new law will mean fewer euthanizations.

Animal-rights activists backed this idea but vehemently opposed a failed Norman bill that would have banned farm photography without an owner's consent, targeting undercover video investigations by groups like PETA and Mercy for Animals.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, also snagged a victory Tuesday. Scott, a self-described "pro-life governor," signed Fasano's bill (HB 501) directing proceeds from Choose Life license plates to Choose Life Inc. instead of counties. Choose Life Inc. would then give the money to not-for-profit groups that help pregnant women planning for adoption.

Gov. Scott signs bill easing 'sexting' punishment for minors 06/21/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 12:25am]
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