California's Assembly Appropriations Committee this month is expected to take up S.B. 558, a measure that would bolster the Golden State's already strong protection for journalists, after the bill unanimously sailed through the Assembly Judiciary Committee on its first policy reading, Courthouse News Service reports.
Article 1, Sec. 2(b) of the California Constitution already shields journalists from having to disclose confidential sources and information to authorities. Presently, news agencies are entitled to five days' notice from law enforcement agencies before a subpoena issues against journalists, thereby affording an opportunity to quash the subpoena or negotiate a narrower production of information. S.B. 558, sponsored by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), would further broaden reporter shield law protection so that persons or agencies that issue subpoenas to third parties, such as cellphone carriers, rental car companies and data storage providers, would be required to give five days' notice as well.
The bill, which has the blessings of the state's press association, is a response to the recent U.S. Justice Department disclosures concerning the tracking of Associated Press phone records over a two-month period.