HONOLULU, Hawaii – The future is looking bleak for a celebrity privacy bill in Hawaii known as the Steven Tyler Act.
The proposal pushed by the Aerosmith lead singer would allow people to sue others who take photos or videos of their private moments. But after sailing through the Senate earlier this month following testimony from Tyler at a February hearing, the bill is missing deadlines in the state House, and key lawmakers say they won’t push it through.
Rep. Angus McKelvey, chairman of the first of three panels the bill needs to pass to get to the House floor, said he won’t hold a hearing for the measure.
“There is zero support for that legislation in the House of Representatives,” said the Maui Democrat, who heads the Consumer Protection Committee. “To say there is absolutely zero support would be an understatement.”
The bill already has missed one internal House deadline to be considered. A second deadline to hear the measure is on Thursday.
House Chief Clerk Brian Takeshita said the leaders of the committees on consumer protection, judiciary and finance could sidestep the deadlines if all three agree to put in a joint request to House Speaker Joseph Souki.
But McKelvey said that’s not going to happen.
“There is a better chance of people flapping their arms and flying from Lanai to Maui,” he told The Associated Press.
If the committee leaders don’t want to entertain the bill, the House speaker can decide to refer the bill to yet another panel, Takeshita said.
But Souki told the AP he doesn’t plan to override McKelvey’s decision.
Tyler’s lawyer, Dina LaPolt, says the lawmakers’ decision is reasonable considering this is the first time this bill has been considered.
“I was very surprised we got out of the Senate on the first run,” LaPolt said. “If it had passed through the House, I would have been shocked.”
She says legislation takes time to pass, and she plans to continue educating lawmakers about the bill this year.
Because of Hawaii’s biennium Legislature, the bill can pick up where it left off in next year’s session if it doesn’t get a hearing this year. The measure would be able to skip Senate proceedings and go straight to the House committees for consideration.
LaPolt says the fact that the bill has stalled won’t affect Tyler’s decision to visit Hawaii. The star owns a multimillion dollar home on Maui.
McKelvey said he has sympathy for Tyler and other celebrities whose privacy rights have been violated. But there are enough legal avenues available to them, including taking the issue to court because privacy is protected in the Hawaii constitution, he said.
LaPolt disagrees and says the constitution isn’t enough. She says creating a civil rule would be more effective in making sure paparazzi stay in line.
Tyler has said he asked Sen. Kalani English of Maui to introduce the bill after someone photographed him with his girlfriend at his home in December.
Along with Tyler, rock legend Mick Fleetwood, who owns a restaurant in McKelvey’s district, attended an earlier hearing to urge lawmakers to pass the bill. Their appearance generated buzz in the state capitol, as staffers snapped cellphone pictures of the stars and compared them in the hallways after the hearing.
Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne and several other high-profile celebrities submitted written testimony in favour of the bill.
National media organizations have staunchly opposed the proposal, saying it would limit freedom of the press.