California legislation that would have restricted -- and possibly eliminated -- news media access to recordings of 911 emergency calls died in the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.
Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona, for many years a 911 dispatcher, said her bill, Assembly Bill 1275, was needed to avoid disclosure of sensitive medical information and thus discourage the public from making 911 calls. She said 911-call access benefits just "tabloids and gossip magazines."
However, representatives of newspapers and broadcast media said that although it was aimed at medical and other personal information, the practical effect would be to close access to all 911 calls and thus make it impossible to investigate how authorities are responding to emergencies.
AB 1275 was backed by public employee unions and law enforcement groups but Public Safety's chairwoman, Berkeley Democrat Loni Hancock, agreed with the media representatives that its enactment would chill news media oversight of emergency operations and "needs a great deal of work."
With Hancock's opposition, the bill didn't receive a single affirmative vote in the committee.