Florida Senate Passes "Amended" Fascist Anti-Farm Video Law
- Sen. Jim Norman scales back bill that inadvertently criminalized farm photography
By Katie Sanders, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
In Print: Tuesday, March 22, 2011
TALLAHASSEE — One of the first bills Jim Norman proposed as a state
senator targets animal-rights activists who sneak onto farms to capture
footage of agricultural practices they consider cruel.But when
initially filed, the Tampa Republican's legislation would have triggered
a first-degree felony charge — the same level for rape or murder — for
anyone who took photos or video of a farm or its animals without the
property owner's consent.So photographers, journalists, law
enforcement officers — even motorists pulling over to capture a pastoral
roadside scene — could have been charged along with groups like Mercy
for Animals or the Humane Society."That was never the intent," Norman said.The New York Times
called it "croparazzi," and news of the bill gained Internet buzz. But
Monday, a heavily amended version of SB 1246 unanimously passed the
Senate Agriculture Committee.The revised bill provides exceptions
for law enforcement officers and Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Services agents conducting inspections or investigations. It also
stipulates that photography would be illegal if it happened upon
entering the property without written consent, so photographs by road or
air are okay.And with Norman's approval, an amendment from Sen.
Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, downgraded the penalty from a felony to a
misdemeanor.Even with the updates, animal-rights activists were unhappy."The
amendment simply replaces one absurd bill with another absurd bill,"
said Jeff Kerr, general counsel of People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals. "This bill would aid and abet criminal animal abuse."Undercover
investigations of farms have historically led to industry reforms, and
this bill threatens to end a consumer service, said Jennifer Hobgood,
Florida state director for the Humane Society of the United States.Norman said he's trying to protect farmers from "unfair outside assaults" on their intellectual and private property rights."They
may have very unique components of their operation," Norman said in an
interview. "It's very unfair to have those filmed, taped and exposed
without the permission of the owner."Norman filed the one-page
bill at the urging of East Pasco egg farmer Wilton Simpson, who recently
filed paperwork to run for state Senate.Simpson, 44, fears
activists will invade Florida farms and gather footage for public
campaigns to replicate a 2008 California constitutional amendment that
bans confinement of animals where they can't stand, sit, lie down, turn
around and stretch their limbs, starting in 2015."We need certain
protections from people who do not want us to exist," Simpson said.
"I'm trying to do something that protects the state of Florida."Siplin,
chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, assured members Monday
that egg farms are clean and sanitary, findings based on his trip to
another Simpson farm last week. Florida farmers, he said, need their
production methods protected.After the meeting, Siplin said he was unaware Simpson's concerns spurred Norman's bill."I didn't know they were friends," he said. "I had an interest in it, so I asked the staff to organize it."Also at issue? Greenbelt exemptions.Will
Shepherd, general counsel for the Hillsborough County Property
Appraiser, said his office uses photographs in investigations to verify
the agricultural tax exemptions.The office inspects thousands of
greenbelted properties in Hillsborough County every year, he said. Many
would be rejected without the option of getting on properties and taking
pictures.Although investigators typically ask for — and receive — permission, Shepherd said he doesn't think that's a requirement."We
sort of feel that when you sign a greenbelt application you give the
property appraiser the right to go out and confirm things," he said.
"This will make their jobs tremendously more difficult."Lawmakers could avoid causing the office administrative pain by granting property appraisers unrestricted access, too, he said.The
House is watching to see what happens to Norman's bill before making a
companion version, said Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island,
chairman of the committee that deals with agriculture policy.Kerr
said PETA's efforts to expose inhumane farm practices will continue
even if Norman's bill becomes law. "We're going to continue to do what
we need to do to expose criminal animal abuse," Kerr said. "We think
this bill is unconstitutional and won't stand scrutiny."Times/Herald staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this report.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter."
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
~ George Orwell
Animal Rights--Rational, not Radical.
~ Brennan Browne
The concept of 'animal rights' values the simple premise that ALL living
creatures have a "right" to be allowed to live their lives without
victimization--free from brutality. It is a right that EVERY being
~ Brennan Browne
THE GOVERNMENT’S COVERT, BUT TRUE, DEFINITION OF TERRORISM:
Any act which threatens to take political or corporate power/profits
from the status quo.
~ Brennan Browne
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