Monday, February 14, 2005

RICHMOND — Drivers who stock their mobile DVD and videotape players with adult material should face a $250 fine if passersby or other motorists are exposed to it, Virginia lawmakers decided yesterday.

The House yesterday unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Harry B. Blevins that would impose a $250 fine if “obscene” material played inside a vehicle on a public street is visible outside the car.

Mr. Blevins cited newspaper stories of children exposed to pornography.

“The mother was horrified to see playing in the car an X-rated, sexually explicit movie that her daughter could see,” the Chesapeake Republican said. “To me, it’s not appropriate for that to be seen in public and on public streets.”

The bill already had unanimously passed the Senate. Now it will go to Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat.

Mr. Blevins said Tennessee has a similar law. Several other states are considering such laws.

He noted that he does not want to restrict First Amendment rights and that people can do whatever they want “in the privacy of their own yards and driveways.” The state Attorney General’s Office helped Mr. Blevins craft the bill to ensure its constitutionality, he said.

The bill is one of several proposed this year to prevent adult material or actions from reaching the eyes of children.

Delegate Samuel A. Nixon Jr. has sponsored a bill that would require any library that receives funding from the state to install an Internet filter system on its computers that would prevent children from being exposed to pornographic Web sites.

The Chesterfield Republican’s bill passed the House on a 76-17 vote earlier this month. It is pending in the Senate General Laws Committee.

“Protecting children from online predators must be a priority,” Mr. Nixon said when introducing his bill. “It’s a sad fact that child exploitation is one of the fastest-growing threats.”

Family Foundation Executive Director Victoria Cobb said the foundation supports the bill after getting a complaint from an Henrico County parent who said her child had been exposed to “obscene” material at the local library.

“This problem is very real,” Miss Cobb said.

Delegate Kathy J. Byron sponsored a bill that makes it a misdemeanor to fondle oneself in public. The Lynchburg Republican’s bill passed the House unanimously earlier this month and is pending a hearing in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

Delegate John A. Cosgrove, Chesapeake Republican, authored a bill that bans “up-skirt” photography, where people secretly film undergarments or private parts.

Mr. Cosgrove’s bill has also passed the House unanimously and will be heard by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. He said this has become a problem in his district, where a man was caught taking such pictures inside a department store.

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