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Bipartisan Bill Targets Animal Rights Activists

Last updated on Wednesday, January 22, 2014

(STATEHOUSE) - After two years of rewrites, a bill targeting animal-rights activists is headed for the Senate floor with bipartisan support.

Farm groups have complained about activists videotaping operations after either sneaking onto farm property or submitting phony resumes. But legislators have struggled to clamp down without overshooting their mark -- the House killed a bill last year which opponents warned could be read as making it a crime to give a restaurant a bad review online.

The latest version elevates trespassing on a farm to a felony if there's more than 750 dollars in property damage.

Current law makes trespassing on a farm or a home a misdemeanor unless property damage reaches three times that. The bar is much lower for trespassing on a business.

Markle Senator Travis Holdman's (R) bill aligns the penalties for farm trespassing with businesses instead of residences. It also removes a requirement that "no trespassing" signs be posted around farmland.

Holdman's original version of the bill this year would have held trespassers responsible for any harm to a business, not just property damage. He revised that language to address First Amendment concerns.

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