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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 28, 2008
Attorney General’s consumer protection, Internet safety and ethics bills scheduled for public hearings this week

OLYMPIA – Five bills requested by Attorney General Rob McKenna are scheduled for public hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. The bills would help keep cell phone numbers private, make it a crime to view child pornography, allow non-commissioned police personnel to assist in child pornography investigations, remove the limit on ethics board penalties and costs and protect consumers from spyware.

Prohibiting third-party marketing of cell phone numbers
In 2005, the Legislature unanimously passed a law stating that radio communication service companies must obtain express opt-in consent from subscribers before publishing their wireless phone numbers in directories. When drafting the law, legislators likely did not predict the recent development of online companies that profit by compiling and selling cell phone numbers and other personal information.

“Consumers believe that their cell phone numbers are private and are generally annoyed by unsolicited calls that burn valuable minutes,” McKenna said. “We already have a law that requires wireless carriers to obtain a subscriber’s permission before listing a number in a directory. This bill expands that rule to other businesses that publish directories.”

SB 6374, prime-sponsored by Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, would require any person in the business of compiling, marketing or selling phone numbers for commercial purposes to obtain a consumer’s express opt-in consent before publishing his or her wireless phone number in a directory. A violation of the law would be punishable by a fine of up to $50,000. The bill would allow the Attorney General to bring actions to enforce compliance. First-time violators could be notified with a warning letter.

The Senate Committee on Consumer Protection and Housing has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the bill at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29. Additional sponsors include Sens. Val Stevens, R-Arlington; Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle; Marilyn Rasmussen, D-Eatonville; and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

Assistant Attorney General Kathryn McLeod will testify in support of the bill.

Youth Internet Safety – Viewing Child Pornography
In 2006, Attorney General Rob McKenna requested legislation increasing the penalty for possession of child pornography from an unranked felony to a Level VI with a minimum one year of prison time.

“Child sex predators can view images online without necessarily downloading content to their hard drives,” McKenna said. “Our proposed law would make it easier for prosecutors to bring cases against those who view child pornography.”

SB 6373, prime-sponsored by Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, seeks to target a changed to RCW 9.68A, creating a new crime of “Viewing Child Pornography”. Additional sponsors include Sens. Val Stevens, R-Arlington; Paull Shin, D-Edmonds; and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

The Senate Committee on Human Services and Corrections has scheduled a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, to hear testimony on the proposed legislation.

According to the American Prosecutors Research Institute, a 2000 study issued by the Federal Bureau of Prisons stated 76 percent of offenders convicted of Internet-related crimes against children admitted to contact sex crimes with children previously undetected by law enforcement and had an average of 30.5 child sex victims each.

In August 2007, McKenna convened the Youth Internet Safety Task Force to take advantage of Washington’s unique position as a technology leader and identify educational, collaborative and law enforcement strategies to make the Internet safer for the people of Washington and their families. The task force recommended this law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on a related Internet safety measure, SB 6372, at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30. The bill is prime-sponsored by Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, with additional support from  Sens. Val Stevens, R-Arlington; Paull Shin, D-Edmonds; and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch. The measure seeks to amend RCW 9.68A.110 and would allow non-commissioned police personnel trained in forensic analysis to assist in child pornography investigations.

Chief Prosecutor Lana Weinmann from the Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division will testify in support of both bills.

Removing limit on ethics board penalties and costs
The Senate Committee on Government Operations will hold a public hearing on SB 6293, sponsored by Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29. The bill seeks a change to RCW 42.52.500 that would remove the limit on ethics board penalties and costs.

 Under the current statute, an ethics board may not require an alleged violator to make total payments of more than $500 in penalty and costs in any case where an administrative law judge is not used and the board did not provide this option to the individual who is the subject of the complaint.
Ethics Board Executive Director Melanie Deleon will testify in support of the bill.

Shutting down spyware
SB 6499, prime-sponsored by Sen. Brian Weinstein, D-Mercer Island, would remedy loopholes and weaknesses in Washington’s Computer Spyware Statute, RCW 19.270. The Senate Committee on Consumer Protection and Housing has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the bill at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29. Senior Counsel Paula Selis from the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division will testify in support of the bill.

The Attorney General’s Office has brought five lawsuits the Consumer Spyware Statute since legislators enacted the law in 2005. McKenna said he’s asking for minor updates to adequately address new types of deceptive behaviors and Internet businesses that permit others to send spyware.

The proposed legislation:

  • Removes onerous requirements that hinder ability to prove cases against violators;
  • Creates liability for Web hosting services who ignore violators’ use of their products or merchants who pay others to violate the law;
  • Adds violations for new forms of spyware; and
  • Clarifies the standards for proof of violations and the circumstances under which actions may be brought.


Additional sponsors include Sens. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland; Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside; Don Benton, R-Olympia; and Adam Kline, D-Seattle.

The House Committee on Technology, Energy and Communications, meanwhile, is scheduled to consider a companion bill, HB 2879, during executive session at 10 a.m. Tuesday. HB 2879 received a public hearing last week and is sponsored by Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes; and Reps. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale; Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle; Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup; and Troy Kelley, D-University Place.

More information on the Attorney General’s proposed legislative package is available online at http://www.atg.wa.gov/2008Legislation.aspx.

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Media Contacts: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager – Seattle, (206) 464-6432
 J. Ryan Shannon, Media Relations Manager – Olympia, (360) 753-2727 
 

 

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