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Legislature passes sex abuse bill

Other measures sent to the governor would stiffen penalties against paparazzi who harass celebrities' children, and stop USC from getting control of the California Science Center parking lots.

September 06, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy and Melanie Mason
  • State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Garden) , back to the camera, is hugged by Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) after he said he had been abused as a child. Lara was speaking in support of a childhood sexual abuse bill in the Capitol. The state Senate approved SB131. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), left, and Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) also offered support to Lara.
State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Garden) , back to the camera, is hugged by… (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated…)

SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers on Friday sent the governor a bill that would give some child-abuse victims more time to sue employers whose workers are molesters.

Other bills winning final legislative approval included one to stiffen penalties against paparazzi who harass the children of celebrities and public officials.

The sex-abuse bill, which is opposed by the Catholic Church, would allow some child-abuse victims more time to file lawsuits against private and nonprofit institutions, such as the Boy Scouts and parochial schools, but would not apply to public schools.

Some victims for whom the statute of limitations has expired would get a new, one-year window during which they could bring a lawsuit.

One lawmaker, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), disclosed during the floor debate that when he was a child, he had been abused by a family member. He said it sometimes takes decades for people to disclose they were molested.

"I was alone trying to understand what happened to me for many years," Lara said. "I couldn't go to anyone."

Some legislators objected that the bill would apply to private schools but not public schools and would not impose more criminal penalties.

"I want to see a bill that applies to both public and private [school] victims," said Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana). "This bill should be about protecting and bringing restitution to all victims, not just one set versus another."

Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego) reacted angrily to those who said the bill was too narrow.

"It gives more protections to some victims of molestation," Block said on the floor. "How can you possibly oppose that?"

Sen. James Beall Jr. (D-San Jose) is the author of the measure, SB 131.

The anti-paparazzi bill, by Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), would make it a misdemeanor to attempt to photograph or videotape a child in a harassing manner if the image is being taken because the child's parent is a celebrity or public official.

The bill would raise the penalty for such harassment from as many as six months in jail and a possible $1,000 fine to potentially one year in jail and a possible fine of $10,000.

Actresses Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner testified in the Capitol recently in favor of the measure, SB 606, saying they are afraid to take their children out into the public because of swarms of intrusive photographers.

"No child, regardless of his or her parent's occupation, should be subjected to such unwarranted and harmful persecution," De Leon said in a statement.

Media groups including the California Broadcasters Assn. and California Newspapers Publishers Assn. opposed the measure. The latter group wrote to lawmakers that "the increased penalties and liabilities improperly abridge First Amendment-protected newsgathering activity that occurs in public places where a person normally has no reasonable expectation of privacy."

Also on its way to Brown is a bill by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would restrict gun shows at the Bay Area's historic Cow Palace, which straddles San Mateo and San Francisco counties. The proposal would require the boards of supervisors of both counties to approve gun shows, an unlikely outcome.

Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said the measure was about "local control" by county officials. But Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) said SB 475 was "just a way to stop people from being able to purchase weapons legally."

Another measure would prohibit companies from adopting policies that ban employees from administering CPR and other medical services in an emergency.

Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) proposed AB 633 in a response to an incident at a Bakersfield nursing facility last February. An employee, citing company policy, refused to perform CPR on an elderly woman who had collapsed. The woman later died.

Another measure sent to the governor would limit the ability of law enforcement to shut down cell phone service in public locations. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) introduced SB 380 in response to a 2011 incident in which the Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency shutdown mobile services for three hours during public protests.

A bill by Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Los Angeles) would prohibit the California Science Center from delegating to University of Southern California the power to operate the center's parking lots at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The bill sent to Brown also would bar the center from selling the parking lots, the Coliseum and the Los Angeles Sports Arena without legislative approval.

Its passage came two days after the California Science Center gave final approval to a lease that grants USC control over the publicly owned Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and nearly all of its revenue for the next century.

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