Virginia, Washington Move Closer To Drone Bans

Government agencies, law enforcement officials angry at backlash Steve Watson Feb 22, 2013

The states of Virginia and Washington moved  significantly closer to banning spy drones yesterday, making legislative  progress that has angered government agencies and law enforcement.

The Washington Times reports that the Virginia General Assembly  approved a moratorium on drone aircraft in the state, sending the legislation to  Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk.

The Senate passed their version of the bill, which  advocates a blanket ban on the use of drones except where missing person  searches are concerned, for the next two years. Members voted by a 40-0 vote  after accepting an amendment from the House, which passed their bill, HB2012, Wednesday.

“We are pleased that it’s on the way to the  governor with strong bipartisan support,” bill sponsor Delegate Benjamin L.  Cline, Augusta Republican, told reporters in Charlottesville, Va. “We hope that  the governor will also share our support for a breathing period to get some  rules in place.”

Although the bill does not go quite as far as Delegate Todd Gilbert’s legislative push last year for a permanent strict ban on surveillance by drones, it is a step in the right direction as far  as privacy advocates are concerned.

Gov. McDonnell is expected to approve the  moratorium, despite comments he made last year when he described warrantless drones as “great”, citing “battlefield  successes”.

“If you’re keeping police officers safe, making it  more productive and saving money… it’s absolutely the right thing to do.”  McDonnell said on the deployment of drones in the state.

The approval of the moratorium on drones comes in  the wake of the passage of legislation by city officials in Charlottesville,  Va to keep drones out of their airspace altogether, making it the first US  city to enact such a ban. Whether city officials will be able to extend their  ban to federal drone aircraft or not remains to be seen.

In a similar move in Washington State yesterday,  legislation to limit drone use was approved 9-1 by a House Committee, and will move forward  to the Rules Committee before potentially heading to the floor of the House.

“I’m pleased the Committee moved H.B. 1771 with a  ‘Do Pass’ recommendation. We’ve been working on the issue for several months and  we have a lot of work left to do, but we passed the first hurdle today. It’s a  great day for freedom and liberty in Washington State,” said Rep. David Taylor  (R), the primary sponsor of the bill.

Much like the Virginia push, the Washington legislation  allows for drones to be used for surveillance, by government agencies and law  enforcement, only if a warrant is issued, or in search and rescue  situations.

“This bill quite simply provides protection to the  citizens of Washington state from warrantless surveillance. That’s our intent  here. To start a conversation and say if these things are going to be used, you  will protect the Constitutional rights of the citizens,” said Rep.Taylor.



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