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Bill Expanding Internet Sales Tax Goes To Governor & Nightly Roundup

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By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – The Texas Legislature has passed a bill that would close a loophole in state law and require Internet businesses to collect sales tax.

State senators gave the legislation final approval Friday. The measure now awaits Gov. Rick Perry's signature before it can become law.

The bill changes the definition of "physical presence" in the state, appeasing local retailers who complain that Internet retailers have an unfair price advantage.

Under the law, companies such as Amazon.com will be forced to collect sales taxes if they pay marketers in Texas to advertise.

Spokesman Eric Bearse of the Alliance for Main Street Fairness says it's important for everyone to collect sales tax since Texas relies heavily on it for revenue.

Four other states have passed similar laws.

Texas House bans 'offensive' security pat-downs

The Texas House has approved final passage of a bill that would make it a criminal offense for public servants to inappropriately touch travelers during airport security pat-downs.

Sent to the Senate Friday, the measure makes it illegal for anyone conducting searches to touch "the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person" including through clothing.

It also prohibits searches "that would be offensive to a reasonable person."

The bill's chief sponsor is Republican Rep. David Simpson. He said during brief debate late Thursday night that "this has to do with dignity and travel, and prohibiting indecent, groping searches."

Simpson believes it will keep Transportation Security Administration officials from treating travelers like criminals, though the measure may be superseded by federal law.

Representatives approved the measure with little opposition.

Volunteer pleads guilty in child porn case

A 27-year-old Fort Worth man who did volunteer work with children at a church has pleaded guilty to distributing images of child pornography on the Internet.

Derek M. Ripley admitted in November that he distributed three files depicting underage boys in sexually explicit behavior. He entered the plea Friday.

An FBI agent discovered that someone logging into a network had shared folders containing images of child porn.

Ripley volunteered to work with youths at Trinity Chapel Bible Church in Benbrook. A church official has said Ripley passed a series of background checks. There was no indication that Ripley took pictures of students at the church.

Ripley faces a maximum 20 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and up to a lifetime of supervised release. Sentencing was set for August.

House approves concussion bill for school sports

The Texas House has voted to require students participating in school sports to undergo initial mental assessments whose results can be used for comparison purposes if a concussion occurs during the season.

Approved Friday by a vote of 94 to 42, the measure calls for cognitive-linguistic or neurocognitive testing prior to the University Interscholastic League athletic seasons.

Those tests would serve as baselines to which post-injury assessments could be compared to understand the extent of injuries.

The bill exempts school districts whose boards vote not to comply with its requirements. It doesn't create a cause of liability against school districts.

Teens or children who return to competition while recovering from a concussion are at risk of an even greater second injury, which can lead to serious disability or death.

Bill links higher Ed funding to student success

The Texas House has approved a measure making public funding for higher education more dependent on student performance.

At a time when budget shortfalls are forcing deep cuts in education, the bipartisan bill passed Friday 118-22. It would measure student achievement against state goals when determining funding levels for Texas public universities and colleges.

Among the performance measures will be the number of bachelor's degrees the institutions award; the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in critical areas and to at-risk students. The six-year graduation rate of students who graduated from Texas public high schools would also be factored.

Supporters say the bill will make Texas universities more-competitive.

Those opposed maintain it will further squeeze cash-strapped universities, and could punish those who admit high numbers of low-income and at-risk students.