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Doty files revenge porn bill again

A bill authored by Sen. Sally Doty that targets “sextortion” and “revenge porn” remains alive in the Senate. Doty, R-Brookhaven, is hopeful this is the year the measure makes it to the governor’s desk.

She has filed a similar bill before only to see it die. The measure would create penalties and liability for sharing intimate visual material of another person.

“This bill provides a civil cause of action, injunctive relief or criminal penalties for sharing intimate pictures or video online without consent,” Doty said when she filed the bill previously.

Sextortion is defined as blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favors and/or money from the victim.

“For example, a blackmailer might assume the identity of an attractive man or woman online, then after gaining the victim’s trust, will record footage of the victim in the nude or performing a sexual act,” Doty said. “The blackmailer threatens to circulate this footage to the victim’s friends or post it online unless a certain amount of money is paid or other sexual images produced.”

Revenge porn involves intimate photos or videos taken or shared with consent with the expectation of privacy.

“Then they are posted online or shared publicly,” she said. “The increases in technology require that our laws keep up with these types of issues. The public release of intimate photographs can have such a devastating effects and my goal with this bill is to punish offenders and prevent these instances from happening in the first place.”

The bill would allow a claimant who has won a lawsuit to be awarded damages, court costs and attorney’s fees.

Other bills authored by Doty that are still alive:

• Senate Bill 2580 would authorize sheriff’s departments in any county to use radar speed detection equipment on public roads in the county, outside of the city limits. It would also also define and prohibit “speed traps.”

• SB 2581 would increase penalties for animal cruelty.

• SB 2529 would create “bona fide separation” as an additional ground for fault divorce.

• SB 2625 would define some employees at Mississippi School of the Arts as contract employees. This would move them out from under the authority of the State Personnel Board. It would also provide that non-instructional employees serve at the will and pleasure of the superintendent of MSA. The measure would exempt some MSA purchases from the regulations of the public procurement law; and exempt MSA from any mid-year budget reductions for the Department of Finance and Administration.

Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, has several bills still active in the House. HB 329 would provide $1.8 million in funding for mental health courts. HB 334 would provide authorization for mental health courts to be established through the state. Currie has pushed for the creation of mental health courts in the past, and last year a bill passed the House but died in the Senate.

Currie has described the court as a way to provide ongoing mental healthcare and reduce the number of mental health patients sentenced to prison for crimes they often cannot help but commit.

“This is a way to keep people out of jail who just need to be back on their medication,” she said. “You put them in a program where they come in every two weeks and see the judge — did they go to the doctor? Are they taking their medicine? Did they attend their therapy appointments? If you do all the right things, you don’t go to jail.

“We give the patient the care they need, and we keep them out of prison,” she said. “It’s good for the public, good for the taxpayer and good for the mentally ill and their families.”

Other bills Currie is still working on include:

• HB 330 would change how schools count average daily attendance. It would change the percentage of instructional day from 37 to 50 percent for students to be counted.

• HB 766 would prohibit  plea bargaining if a suspect has been sentenced under habitual offender statutes if the crime was a crime of violence.

• HB 1083 would require the Department of Child Protection Services to submit financial data to the joint legislative budget office, maintain a list of all licensed social workers and to request the state auditor to conduct forensic audits of revenues and expenditures. Currie has often pushed for more financial accountability in state agencies.

Rep. Vince Mangold’s bill that would allow feed trucks to apply for an excess weight harvest permit is still in committee. The only other measure he is principal author of, HB 669, would authorize the state to issue up to $500,000 in bonds to help Scenic Rivers Development Alliance purchase 150 acres for a development at Lake Okhissa. The bill has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee. Currie is also listed as an author on HB 669.

Bills not passed out of committee by Feb. 5 will die.