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No action on reckless state spending. So lawmakers tackle reckless journalism

August 31, 2010 |  4:56 pm

Photographers who drive recklessly in pursuit of celebrity photos or block sidewalks creating a sense of "false imprisonment" will face stiff new penalties, including possible jail time, under a measure that gained final approval in the Assembly on Tuesday.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D- Los Angeles) wrote AB 2479 after hearing tales of paparazzi encounters from actresses Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, among others, and about high-speed car chases through Hollywood as multiple photographers would compete for a celebrity photo.

"It's amazing that there haven't been tragedies like what happened in France with Princess Diana," Bass said, referring to the British royal's death in a high-speed crash after photographers followed her car through darkened Paris streets.  Investigators said alcohol was found in Diana's chauffeur's blood, which contributed to the crash.

Opponents of the bill, including the California Newspaper Publishers Assn., described the measure as an affront to the 1st Amendment, noting that there are already legal penalties for reckless driving. 

"All occupations come with certain hazards," said Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton).  He said that that farm workers making $20,000 per year have to deal with heat and physical danger, while celebrities making $20,000 a day have to deal with photographers.

The bill passed the Assembly 43 to 13 and is on its way to the governor's desk.

The California Newspapers Publishers Assn. suffered another defeat with final passage of a measure that seals the autopsy reports of slain children.  State Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta), who wrote SB 5, said it came in response to a flood of public records requests following the rape and murder of San Diego-area teenagers Chelsea King and Amber Dubois.

The two murders also inspired Chelsea's Law, which, if signed by the governor, will impose harsh new penalties for child molesters. A man who was on parole after serving five years in prison for molesting a 13-year-old has pleaded guilty to both slayings.

"There is simply no convincing public interest in the broadcasting of lurid autopsy documents that should prevail over the rights of a family to keep private the final, desperate moments of their child's life," said Hollingsworth.  The measure now goes to the governor's desk.

-- Jack Dolan in Sacramento