INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A bill that would make it illegal to
secretly take videos or photographs that could make a business look bad
stalled Friday in the Indiana Legislature amid debate over whether it
would squelch whistleblowers trying to expose wrongdoing.
The Senate voted 29-21 in favor of the bill. But the House sponsor
withdrew the measure a short time later after a floor debate during which
several opponents argued it could lead to criminal charges against those
trying to document unsafe working conditions or even customers who sent
text messages about an unsanitary restaurant.
The bill would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail to
commit "an act ... with the intent to harm" a business on the property.
Bill sponsor Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, said the bill was meant to
protect factories, farms and other businesses from those who violated the
owner's property rights.
"I don't think we really want to go to that place in our culture where we
turn vigilantes loose with cameras going around doing the work of police
and regulatory agencies," Holdman said.
The fate of the bill was uncertain, although an earlier version that
didn't include any mention of photos or videos could be considered before
Friday night's expected adjournment of the legislative session.
House opponents of the bill called it a "gag all" measure that intruded on
freedom of speech rights.
"People who are doing this and trying to whistleblow on danger should be
rewarded for protecting lives, not threatened," said Rep. Patrick Bauer,
Rep. Thomas Saunders, R-Lewisville, said he worried the bill's provisions
would make it illegal to visit a constituent in a nursing home and take
photos if he saw unsafe conditions.
Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, disputed the contention that customers at a
restaurant or retail business could face criminal charges, but said he
withdrew the bill he sponsored at the request of Republican House Speaker
Earlier, Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said he was troubled that the bill
didn't protect people who did nothing misleading with the photos or
"We ought not put people in jail for taking pictures, especially if the
picture shows nothing but the truth, and if knowing the truth is in the
public interest," Lanane said.