Bills that would limit the use of domestic drones in Virginia and Montana took an important step forward this week.
On Tuesday, the Montana Senate overwhelmingly passed anti-drone legislation.
Sen. Robyn Driscoll (D-Billings) introduced SB 150 last month. The bill would prohibit any state or local agency in Montana from owning an “unmanned aerial vehicle containing an antipersonnel device.” It would also make any evidence gathered by a drone inadmissible in a criminal proceeding. The legislation contains some teeth, opening the door for any victim of a drone to seek punitive and compensatory damages.
SB 150 passed the Senate by a 32-17 margin.
The bill will now move on for consideration in the House. It has not been assign to a committee at this time.
“Americans are tired of having their privacy violated by government functionaries, and its good to see states stepping in to say no. Here we have bills in two states, one sponsored by a Democrat, the other by a Republican, both garnering broad bipartisan support,” Maharrey said. “This is not a partisan issue. This is an American issue. We value our liberties and our right to just be left alone. I don’t think anybody is comfortable with the idea of drones hovering over our homes, especially when we see the potential for remote controlled execution. We already have a president claiming the authority to off Americans on a whim with the click of a button. Now is the time to nip this drone thing in the bud.”
On Monday, the Virginia House overwhelmingly passed HB2012, it’s own anti-drone bill. It would place a two-year moratorium on the use of unmanned aircraft by any state or local law enforcement agency in the Old Dominion State. The bill, sponsored by Delegate Benjamin Cline (R-Amherst), passed 83-16.
As introduced, the legislation only limited the use of drones until 2014. The version passed would prohibit their use, with a few exceptions, until July 2015.
HB2012 incorporated a stronger anti-drone measure. HB1616 would have permanently banned any state or local law enforcement agency from procuring “a public unmanned aircraft system (drone aircraft) without the approval of the General Assembly or the local governing body, respectively,” and would have required a warrant for their use.
“I’m disappointed that the Virginia House didn’t move forward with the stronger bill, but I am glad they have passed a measure that will slow the roll on domestic drone deployment,” Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey said. “The overwhelming support of this bill indicates Virginia lawmakers are serious about considering the civil liberty implications of using unmanned spy-planes to watch over their constituents. Hopefully, they will use the time during the two-year moratorium to develop strong measures that will keep drones out of Virginia airspace – assuming the Senate passes the bill.”
The bill will now move on for consideration in the Senate. It has not been assign to a committee at this time.
Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin stressed the importance of states taking action on drones now.
“At this stage in the ‘drone game,’ the feds are working hard behind the scenes to get states to operate the drones for them. In fact, DHS issues large grants to local governments so that those agencies can purchase drones. The goal? Fund a network of drones around the country and put the operational burden on the states. Once the create a web over the whole country, DHS steps in with requests for ‘information sharing,’” he said. “Bills like these put a dent in this kind of long-term strategy. Without the states and local communities operating the drones today, it’s going to be nearly impossible for DHS plans to – take off.”
LEGISLATION AND TRACKING
If you’re outside of these two states, please contact your own legislators regarding anti-NDAA legislation. If none has been introduced in your state, you can email them The Privacy Protection Act model legislation.
Track the status of drone nullification in states around the country HERE
If you live in Montana or Virginia, you can help these bills clear the next hurdle.
In Virginia, contact your state Senator and ask her/him to support HB2012. You can find Senate contact information HERE.
In Montana, contact your state House member and ask him/her to support SB 150. You can find contact information HERE.