Legislators prepare to vote on paparazzi crackdown

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A plan to crack down on paparazzi who drive recklessly in pursuit of celebrities is moving through the Legislature despite heated opposition from media organizations as lawmakers approach next week’s deadline for advancing bills to the governor’s desk.

As the paparazzi bill neared a floor vote Wednesday, the full Senate and Assembly gave approval to dozens of other measures. Proposals to help finance operation of a new private hospital to replace the closed Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, make public the names of businesses that receive state tax breaks and fine minors who ski or snowboard without a helmet all got final legislative approval.

The paparazzi proposal, written by Assemblywoman Karen Bass (D- Los Angeles) with help from Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, would impose stiff penalties — including possible jail time — on photographers caught driving dangerously in search of exclusive still photos or video images of famous subjects.

“Some artists fear there is going to be a terrible accident,” said Bass, noting that those voicing concern to her personally included actresses Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. “This is certainly no attempt to regulate the press.”

But the California Newspaper Publishers Assn. argues that laws on the books already allow the prosecution of people who recklessly flout traffic and trespassing laws. Heaping new penalties on violators just because they are seeking photographs, the organization says, is an affront to the 1st Amendment.

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