SACRAMENTO, Calif. >> Actresses Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner urged California lawmakers to support legislation that they say would help them better protect their children from the paparazzi that follow them daily.
The stars testified before the Assembly Judiciary Committee today regarding SB606, which would impose tougher penalties on photographers who harass celebrities and their children.
It was Berry’s second state Capitol appearance on the measure. The Academy Award-winning actress, who is pregnant, told lawmakers the constant presence of photographers yelling and snapping pictures has made her daughter scared to go to school.
"As mothers, as parents, we don’t have the wherewithal or the law in place right now to protect them from this," Berry said. "What this bill would do is give us our rights back so that we can protect our children."
The bill from Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, would change the definition of harassment to include photographing or recording a child without the permission of a legal guardian by following the child or guardian’s activities or by lying in wait. It also increases the penalties for people convicted of such behavior.
The bill passed the panel without opposition and now heads to the Appropriations Committee.
Garner, who starred in the ABC series "Alias," nearly cried describing how paparazzi aggressively follow her and her three young children as she takes them to school and to the pediatrician.
She told the committee that she understood she would make certain sacrifices when she chose a career in acting but that her children have not made the same decision to be in the public spotlight.
"I don’t want a gang of shouting, arguing, law-breaking photographers who camp out everywhere we are, all day, every day, to continue to traumatize my kids," Garner said.
Media organizations are concerned the bill will restrict journalists who are conducting legitimate newsgathering activities.
Joe Berry of the California Broadcasters Association said harassment is already illegal. The legislation "is overly broad and overly reaches in order to rein in these bad actors," he testified.
De Leon told the committee he believes pending amendments will satisfy some concerns about the bill.