Florida agriculture whistleblower bill fails
A controversial bill that would have made it a crime to take photographs of ag facilities in Florida has met its demise for this session, but similar legislation remains a possibility in Minnesota and Iowa.
Reporter Brett Ader from our sister site The Florida Independent notes that while the Florida proposal might be dead, opponents aren’t yet ready to celebrate.
Even with state protections afforded to whistleblowers as well as those outlined in the Food Safety and Modernization Act, many fear if even a single state were to pass a so called “ag-gag bill,” the ripple effect could prove detrimental.
“I’d be concerned that a state law would be a sufficient enough deterrent that it would chill the sort of activism that is providing this insight into what’s occurring,” says Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “I think we’d probably have to offer some legal challenges to them, but I know that they are trying to craft these bills in a way that is constitutionally defensible. Whether they can meet that standard is uncertain, but we’re going to work very hard to do all that we can to block it so we don’t have to get to that circumstance.”
… [Florida Sen. Jim] Norman acknowledged that he had crafted the legislation along with the Florida Farm Bureau at the behest of one of the state’s largest egg producers, Wilton Simpson, who recently announced his intention to run for state Senate in 2012.
Legal experts had warned of the numerous issues that would arise under the U.S. and state Constitutions, as well as legal provide for whistleblowers. CNN even hosted a debate last month on the proposed laws, in which legal analyst Sunny Hostin decried the legislation as “disingenuous,” pointing to the fact that lawmakers behind the legislation acknowledge that even in instances where what is being filmed is an accurate representation, doing so would be illegal.
Since budget battles continue to loom large in the Iowa legislature it is unlikely, most lawmakers say, that the Iowa version of the bill will get further debate this year.