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Tampa lawmaker pushes farm photography ban--again

Update: After the post was published, senators amended the bill and passed it without the farm photography section. The House version of the bill, HB1021, still contains the provision, and will be heard Wednesday.

Tampa Republican Sen. Jim Norman will again have to trim back his proposal aimed at preventing animal rights activists from capturing photo or video of farm footage they consider cruel.

The bill, SB1184, is meant to target employees, or activists pretending to be on a farm for some other purpose, and prevent them from taking photos or videos that could be misconstrued by the public and harm farm industries.

But critics argue that the bill's reach is too broad, making it a crime for tourists, photojournalists or any unsuspecting photographer to take a photo.

Senators in the Committee on Agriculture postponed the vote to give Norman time to narrow the bill.

Animal rights groups say the proposal should be eliminated altogether because existing laws address trespass and slander.

"What is being hidden?" asked Laura Bevan of The Humane Society of the United States. "If there are things going on in farms that are misunderstood, educate people, don't make this law that has unintended consequences."

A similar measure was introduced, toned down, and adopted in the Senate last year before ultimately dying in the House.

Last year's original bill garnered national buzz because it would have charged lawbreaking photographers or videographers with a first-degree felony, on par with the penalty for murder or rape. The New York Times labeled the bill "croparazzi."

The current proposal would charge offenders with a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

The law is needed, proponents say, because of cases like one in Texas, where animal rights activists wired themselves with hidden cameras to get footage of an egg farm that they used in an anti-factory campaign.