A pair of bills that would decrease the penalty for teenagers who "sext" got their first joint public hearing today in the Legislature, where lawmakers appear poised to add Oregon to the growing list of states that have lessened the punishment for "sexting."

Senate Bills 677 and 678 offer two alternatives for making "sexting" among teenagers a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Today in Oregon, taking a sexually suggestive photograph of a child younger than 18 is a felony according to a 1985 state law that was intended to crack down on child pornographers. That law didn't envision a time when teens themselves could so easily make—and share—explicit photos of themselves by themselves.

The motivation in the Legislature for tackling teen "sexting" stems from the November passage of Measure 73, a voter-approved initiative that increased the prison sentences for repeat offenders who commit certain sex crimes. (Measure 73 also affects repeat offenders who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.)

Before Measure 73, a 17-year-old boy who took a sexually suggestive photo of his 16-year-old girlfriend and then shared it with others faced a 70-month sentence if convicted. Under Measure 73, all it takes to be considered a repeat offender is taking two sexually suggestive photos at two different times.  Now, if that same 17-year-old boy took two photos of his girlfriend at two different times, he could face a punishment of 25 years if convicted under Measure 73.