Gov. Brown signs bills aimed at paparazzi, family leave and quakes

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Tuesday a measure sought by celebrities to protect their children’s privacy, a bill to extend family leave benefits and a proposal for more earthquake sensors in California.

The governor’s signature on the privacy measure will 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.

“Kids shouldn’t be tabloid fodder nor the target of ongoing harassment,” the bill’s author, Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), said in a statement. The new law “will give children, no matter who their parent is, protection from harassers who go to extremes to turn a buck,” he said.


The measure drew strong support from Hollywood celebrities. Actresses Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry testified before the Legislature that when they take their children out in public, they are harassed by paparazzi.

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, also increases the penalty for harassment, which is currently as much as six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The new penalty for harassment of children by photographers or video camera operators is as long as a year in jail and a possible fine of $10,000.

The California Broadcasters Assn. and California Newspapers Publishers Assn. opposed the bill, SB 606, saying that it was too broad and that existing laws against harassment are sufficient.

Brown also signed legislation that allows workers to receive partial pay while taking family leave to care for a wider variety of relatives suffering serious illness.

Currently, employees in California can receive temporary disability insurance benefits to cover as much as 55% of their wages while they take as many as six weeks of leave per year to care for a seriously ill spouse, domestic partner, child or parent. The new law will extend the benefits to employees caring for a sick sibling, grandparent, grandchild or parent-in-law.

“The governor signed SB 770 so that workers can care for extended family members without jeopardizing their economic well-being,” said Jim Evans, a spokesman for Brown.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), who introduced the bill, said the state’s Paid Family Leave program “will now more accurately reflect the broader range of care-giving responsibilities that families have in our state.”

Republicans opposed the bill, in part because it did not exempt small businesses that employ fewer than 50 people.

Brown also approved a measure intended to create a statewide early-warning system for earthquakes.

Such technology already exists on a smaller scale in California. The U.S. Geological Survey, state officials and seismologists from UC Berkeley and Caltech administer a network of hundreds of sensors — concentrated mainly in the Bay Area and in Los Angeles — that detect seismic waves seconds before earthquakes are felt.

The proposal by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would expand that network to include more sensors throughout the state and develop ways to relay that information to the public.

“We want what Japan has. We want what Mexico has,” Padilla said.

Both countries have their own early warning systems in place. When a magnitude 9 earthquake struck off Japan’s coast in March 2011, the warning system triggered alerts on television, radio and on smartphones as much as 80 seconds before people felt the shaking.

A statewide system has an estimated price tag of $80 million over five years. But Padilla’s bill, SB 135, did not attach any money for the project. Rather, it gives the state Office of Emergency Systems until Jan. 1, 2016, to cobble together the cash.

Possible funding sources include federal grants, partnerships with private companies and surcharges on residents’ phone or electric bills.