In a surprisingly close vote on Thursday, the Missouri House voted to place severe limitations on the use of drones in the state. House bill 46 (HB46), introduced by Representative Casey Guernsey, came up for a third and final reading and vote on April 4th. It passed by vote of 87-66. It now goes to the State Senate for concurrence.
If signed into law, HB46 would ban the use of drone surveillance without a warrant, or without permission of the property owner being surveilled. It reads, in part:
No person, entity, or state agency shall use a manned aircraft, drone, or unmanned aircraft to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute or regulation except to the extent authorized in a warrant.
No person, entity, or state agency shall use a manned aircraft, drone, or unmanned aircraft to conduct surveillance or observation under the doctrine of open fields of any individual, property owned by an individual, farm, or agricultural industry without the consent of that individual, property owner, farm or agricultural industry.
No person, group of persons, entity, or organization, including, but not limited to, journalists, reporters, or news organizations, shall use a drone or other unmanned aircraft to conduct surveillance of any individual or property owned by an individual or business without the consent of that individual or property owner.
While the bill does leave a few small openings for drone use in emergency situations where life is “in imminent danger,” or by universities for research, the vast majority of potential drone use in the state would be eliminated under this bill.
While the bill only limits drone use by state and local government, it will have some serious impact on intended results being pushed by the federal government. 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, the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance being carried out by states and local communities is the Federal government itself. Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so that those agencies can purchase drones. Those grants, in and of themselves, are an unconstitutional expansion of power.
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.
In fact, this has been as much as confirmed by a drone industry lobbyist who testified in opposition to a similar bill in Washington State saying that such restrictions would be extremely destructive to the drone market and industry.
For opponents of government-spying, this should be a green light to support such bills in Missouri and everywhere else in the country.
ACTION ITEMS for Missouri
1. Call your state Senator. Strongly, but respectfully let him or her know that you want to see a YES vote on HB46. Remind them that the issue of privacy and government surveillance is about principle, not PARTY.
Contact info here:
2. Share this information widely. Please pass this along to your friends and family. Also share it with any and all grassroots groups you’re in contact with around the state. Please encourage them to email this information to their members and supporters.
LEGISLATION AND TRACKING
If you’re outside of Missouri, please contact your own legislators regarding anti-drone 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