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General Assembly

Business-videotaping ban sent to full House

– Taking videos and photos at farms and factories without permission would become illegal under a proposal endorsed Thursday by an Indiana House committee.

Passage came despite objections from critics who say it would punish whistle-blowers and criminalize the exposure of the truth.

The proposal would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail to take a photograph or video of a farm or industrial operation without the written consent of the property’s owner unless the material is turned over to law enforcement or a regulatory agency within 48 hours.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, said the measure is aimed at stopping overzealous activists from defaming farms and businesses with misleading videos.

The House agriculture committee voted 9-3 Thursday to advance the bill to the full House.

The Senate approved a version of the bill last month.

Rep. Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette, said she opposes the bill because of concerns that it would prevent exposure of misconduct such as puppy mills where dogs are kept in bad conditions or neglected horses.

While the prohibition on videotaping at farms has received much of the attention from opponents, Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott said the legislation would have a chilling effect on employees trying to expose dangerous conditions.

Steve Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association, said the bill has First Amendment issues, with what he called an unconstitutional prior restraint on people gathering news and information.

Key said those concerns weren’t lessened by the provisions of no crime being committed if the information is given to authorities.

“Sometimes the problem is with the agencies that are supposed to be regulating,” he said.