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Assembly passes 2 bills to restrict aggressive paparazzi; moves follow similar law last year

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The California Assembly approved two bills on Wednesday intended to rein in aggressive paparazzi who pursue celebrities.

AB1256 and AB1356, both by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, won approval in the Assembly and were sent to the state Senate.

One of the bills makes it illegal to interfere with someone trying to enter or leave a building. Bloom said it was not about paparazzi but about protecting children and others who are affected by aggressive photographers at places such as schools and hospitals. That bill, AB1256, was approved on a 52-16 vote.

"You need to see it to believe it," Bloom said, referring to the crush of photographers who can suddenly descend and "poke cameras in the face of small children. It is very, very frightening."

The other bill would expand the state's definition of stalking to include unwanted surveillance that has no legitimate purpose. Bloom said the surveillance would still need to meet other criteria for stalking, including that a credible threat had been made, and the subject fears for their safety and at least once demanded to be left alone.

That bill passed 52-15.

Other legislation intended to deter paparazzi was approved last year.

News media organizations oppose the latest bills, and several Republican lawmakers voted against both on Wednesday.

Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irvine, said AB1356 infringes on First Amendment rights and "goes way too far to prohibit lots of conduct that is legitimate news gathering."

"Scale this bill back, make it apply only to paparazzi, make it apply only to the kind of stalking that we're concerned about," he urged Bloom.

The bills follow legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year that imposes tougher penalties for paparazzi and others who harass the children of celebrities by taking photos or video without parental consent and in a harassing manner.

Celebrities, including Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner, testified in favour of that legislation. Berry told lawmakers the constant presence of photographers yelling and snapping pictures has made her daughter scared to go to school.

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Associated Press writer Don Thompson also contributed to this report.

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