Senate passes anti-photo bill
Feb 26, 2013 (South Bend Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
One of the most controversial bills in this year's General Assembly session so far -- Senate Bill 373, which would make it a crime to take photos on rural or industrial property -- passed this afternoon, sending the issue to the state House.
Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, the author of the bill, referred to the strong criticism of the bill himself before the vote on the Senate floor.
Animal-rights groups and others have decried the bill as inhibiting "whistle-blowing" potential, such as animal cruelty and workplace injustices. They say other laws, including those that describe trespassing and libel, address illegal acts in which a business owner's reputation might be harmed.
"I've had many people say this is a First Amendment issue, but I believe it is a personal property rights issue," Holdman said.
He described a scenario in which someone would hire him as a plumber, and the homeowner leaves.
"While you're gone I get out my iPhone and I start videotaping and photographing things I see going on in your house," he said. "I might go into your nightstand. ... I might take a picture of your kitchen sink if you've left dishes undone a number of days ... and then I post that on the Internet."
Holdman said that based on objections during committee testimony, the bill underwent several revisions, such as exempting authorities or good-faith whistle-blowers who take their evidence to an agency or law enforcement officer within 48 hours.
"We have law enforcement and we have regulatory agencies. We don't need folks taking the law into their own hands," he said. "We don't need a vigilante group with cameras and video cameras taking pictures of things that we just don't like."
But Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, was just as impassioned against the bill.
"This bill was originally offered as help for a few innocent farmers who are being harassed. But I think this argument isn't just about farmers," she said. "I think this bill seriously jeopardizes the free press.
"This bill puts a criminal penalty on the truth," she said. "I understand there's a need to maintain privacy. But again, we're smashing a fly with a sledgehammer. This legislation just goes too far."
She and other senators also criticized the bill's 48-hour requirement.
Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Goshen, who had submitted a similar bill, and Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, voted in favor of the measure. Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, voted against it.
It heads to a House committee for approval.
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