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Morning Read: Virginia Bill Gives Parents Access to Facebook Accounts of Deceased Children

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Editor's Note: This story has been updated.

    A bill that would allow parents of a deceased child to more easily gain access to the minor’s online accounts passed both houses of the Virginia legislature this week, and is headed to Gov. McDonnell for signature.

    Teen's Death Prompts Privacy Questions

    [DC] Teen's Death Prompts Facebook Privacy Questions
    Jim Rosenfield reports on how a Virginia teen's death is prompting questions about privacy regulations on Facebook.

    The Virginia Senate unanimously passed the legislation Monday. Tuesday evening, the House passed the Senate version of the bill.

    Specifically, the bill allows a representative of the minor to obtain access to his or her digital accounts within 30 days of submitting a written request and death certificate to the social media site.

    The Washington Post ran a story on the front page of its Metro section Monday explaining the origins of the bill and one Virginia family’s struggle to get answers after their teenage son committed suicide:

    After Eric’s suicide in January 2011, Ricky and Diane Rash hunted for clues to explain their son’s death, including his Facebook page. But they found that the Internet giant, citing state and federal privacy laws, blocked their access until their son’s estate was settled. So now the Rashes want to change the law.  “We were just grieving parents reaching out for anything we could,” Ricky Rash said. “Our issue with Facebook and social media is, we should have access.”

    The bill is said to be among the first in the country to establish guidelines for dealing with someone’s digital assets after they die.

    IN OTHER NEWS:

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    * Why is Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett trying to give 5,000 government employees 13.5-percent raises when the county is facing a $134 million budget shortfall? (Washington Examiner)

    * Maryland GOP legislators are scheduled to have a news conference Tuesday explaining why they don’t think the state should raise the gas tax and why new transportation revenues are not needed at all. (Maryland Reporter)

    * Gov. Martin O’Malley told Maryland senators during the annual George Washington’s Birthday address that if Washington were to come to Annapolis, he would warn Americans against a “spirit of hedonism” hurting the gains of the American Revolution. (Baltimore Sun)

    * A newly obtained letter shows that D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson was asked in 2010 to review allegations that District police deliberately understated the number of sexual assaults in the city, but he chose not to investigate the matter. (Washington Examiner)

    * The Virginia House education committee passed legislation that would require youth sports programs that use public school property to adopt procedures for identifying and handling concussions. (News4)

    * Chuck Thies says that if Mayor Gray runs for reelection in 2014, his opponents would be “gravely mistaken to overestimate the fallout from 2010.” (News4)

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    * A Virginia House panel vetoed a bill that would have made it an explicit goal of the state to close the $3,000 gap between the average teacher salary in Virginia and the national average for teachers. ((Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot)

    * McDonnell urges Obama to avoid sequester cuts that would kick in March and disproportionally impact Virginia. (News4)

    * D.C. United leadership says it is “very hopeful” of striking a deal to building a soccer stadium in the District, possibly at an undeveloped area near Nationals Park in Southwest. (Washington Post)