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Senate OKs Ban on Witnesses’ Sale of Interviews to News Media

Times staff writer

Sparked by the O.J. Simpson case, legislation prohibiting witnesses from selling their stories to the news media before or during a trial has been approved by the Senate.

A 28-2 vote sent the bill (AB501) by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) back to the lower house for concurrence in Senate amendments, which would move it to Gov. Pete Wilson’s desk.

The measure was sparked by the rise of tabloid television news shows such as “Hard Copy” and “Inside Edition” that pay witnesses for interviews. Supermarket tabloid newspapers such as the National Enquirer also pay for such stories.

“Payment for testimony jeopardizes the very integrity of the judicial system by compromising the testimony of material witnesses,” Brown said. “This bill protects the quality of our judicial system while respecting freedom of speech.”

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ASSEMBLY

Floor Action

* Price Gouging: Passed and sent to the governor on a 44-20 vote a bill (AB 36X) by Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) making it a misdemeanor to raise prices more than 10% on critical goods and services after the declaration of a state of emergency such as the one after the Northridge earthquake.

* Campus Firearms: Passed and sent to the governor on a 44-2 vote a bill (AB 645) by Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress) making it a felony to illegally carry a firearm within 1,000 feet of a public or private school campus.

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* Prisoner Rights: Passed and returned to the Senate for concurrence in Assembly amendments on a 54-2 vote a bill (SB 1260) by Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside) allowing prison officials to prohibit inmates from receiving pornographic magazines and charge them a $3 filing fee for inmate-initiated civil lawsuits.

* Homeless Shelters: Passed and returned to the Senate for concurrence in amendments on a 43-27 vote a bill (SB 1691) by Sen. Tom Campbell (R-Stanford) requiring that National Guard armories be made available to cities and counties to provide temporary shelter for the homeless except when the facilities are being used for military training.

* Food Stamps: Passed and returned to the Senate for concurrence in Assembly amendments on a 45-32 vote a bill (SB 1675) by Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) requiring the state to work with nonprofit hunger relief groups to make food stamp applications available at county unemployment offices, homeless shelters and emergency food distribution sites.

SENATE

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Floor Action

* Graffiti: Passed and sent to the governor on a 27-0 vote a bill (SB 583) by Sen. John Lewis (R-Orange) making it a misdemeanor to possess an aerosol paint container, a felt-tip marker pen or any other marking device with the intent to commit vandalism or engage in graffiti.

* Child Molesters: Passed and sent to the governor on a 36-0 vote a bill (AB 3273) by Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Garden Grove) establishing a special unit within the state Department of Justice to investigate child molestation complaints.

* Alcoholic Beverages: Passed and returned to the Assembly for concurrence in amendments on 27-1 vote a bill (AB 3805) by Assemblyman Bernie Richter (R-Chico) allowing law enforcement officials to use people under age 21 as decoys to apprehend merchants who illegally sell liquor, beer and wine to minors.

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