Two bills regulating teenagers’ sex lives passed on the Senate floor today — one would outlaw “sexting” by minors; the other would exempt young adults caught having consensual sex with a minor from registering as sex offenders.

SB 407 by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, would prohibit minors from sending sexually explicit images via cellphone or computer. On the floor, senators adopted an amendment co-crafted by Watson and Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, that distinguishes between minors who “promote” an image by passing it on electronically, and those who possess an image but delete it within a reasonable time.

“My concern was about the minor, the kid who received a text unsolicited … and then did nothing with it except maybe show it to the person sitting next to them on the school bus,” said Huffman. 

The bill also has a flexible education component, which allows school districts to develop age-appropriate curriculum to educate students on the law and the emotional harm sending racy electronic images can cause.

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SB 198 by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, exempts those convicted of having sex with a minor from registering as sex offenders under certain conditions: if they are fewer than 4 years older, the minor is at least 15 years of age and consented, and if a judge agrees they aren't a public threat to others and it's in the "best interest of justice."  

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