As the electronic scanner passed back and forth over his forged access badge, Scott Weiss figured he was sunk.
The 50-year-old West Los Angeles real-estate appraiser had bluffed his way down the red carpet at the 2008 Screen Actors Guild Awards, but he hit a snag at the entrance to the Shrine Exposition Center: his badge lacked the authentic electronic chip that was designed to keep party crashers like Weiss out of A-list Hollywood events.
But to Weiss's amazement, after several unsuccessful tries with the scanner, the security guard stopped and simply said, "OK, you're good."
Weiss's unauthorized entry into five major awards shows in 2007 and 2008 was filmed for the documentary "Crasher." He is Exhibit A for supporters of a bill awaiting California lawmakers as they return from summer recess on Monday.
The measure, AB451, would expand the current definition of trespassing to include the intentional, unapproved entry into an event clearly advertised as off-limits to the general public. First-time violators could face up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine.
"Under AB451, if you're there an at event where you don't have a ticket, and you're asked to leave and you don't want to leave, you're trespassing," said its author, Anthony Portantino, a Pasadena Democrat.
The Screen Actors Guild, which sponsored the bill, described party crashing as a safety issue.
"Trespassing by its very nature puts people at risk," the labor union said in a statement to The Associated Press. "Illegal entry poses a threat to security and we feel that all event sponsors should have the full force of the law behind them in providing for the safety of their guests."
Weiss said harmless thrill-seekers like himself actually keep security personnel on their toes for real threats.
After completing their work on "Crasher" in 2009, he and his fellow filmmakers set up meetings with representatives from the various award shows to show
them the film and point out the flaws in their respective security systems.
"None of the producers were happy we did it, but they were really happy to see how we did it," Weiss said.
Portantino said he has heard concerns the measure would infringe on free speech by hampering media coverage of events or making peaceful protesters vulnerable to charges of trespassing. He said he will continue to fine-tune the bill language to make sure that doesn't happen.
"Our goal is to make it narrow enough to be about one-day sporting and entertainment events, and not have it be about political, free speech-type issues," he said. "We want to make sure there are no unintended consequences."
The bill is scheduled to come up for a Senate floor vote this month, but the date has not yet been set.
Weiss, who is retired from party crashing, said he'll be watching with interest.
"The whole concept of the law is designed to keep little people out of the events where they big shots are," he said. "And I frankly think some of the most interesting people at a party are the party crashers."
The Legislature may consider several other bills of note this week, including:
- Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's SB1285 aims to prevent disproportionate teacher layoffs by requiring school superintendents to spread out inexperienced teachers in schools across each district. The Sacramento Democrat's bill came after a judge in May blocked mass layoffs of less senior Los Angeles Unified School District teachers clustered at three middle schools serving low-income and minority students. Teacher unions say the bill could weaken seniority protections. It is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
- Counties could place some county jail inmates on home detention as an alternative to freeing them entirely, under a bill before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday. AB1369 by Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, would let county boards of supervisors establish electronic monitoring programs to track the detainees' whereabouts. The programs could be used when jail crowding would otherwise require releasing inmates who can't post bail.
- Citizens could vote without registering before election day under a bill by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. Yee said his same-day registration bill, SB1140, would boost participation without increasing vote fraud. Six states already let states register on the same day they cast their first vote. Yee's bill would add California, but only after county election officials have a way to immediately verify a voter's identity. The Assembly Appropriations Committee is scheduled to hear the bill on Wednesday.