Pro-surveillance state supporters were out in full force as a bill to limit the use of drones in Louisiana passed by an extremely close vote.
Amid claims that requiring warrants would be dangerous to the public, Louisiana senators stood strong, approving a bill which would severely limit state and local law enforcement from being able to do what they claim the power to do today – use drones without a warrant in virtually any and every situation.
Senate Bill 330 (SB330) bans state officials from using drones to monitor Louisiana residents without a warrant. The bill also sets up for civil recourse for victims of unlawful drone use, and requires state government agencies to issue a public report about their drone activities every two years. The vote was 22-16.
Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Michael Maharrey noted that Louisiana could join the growing chorus of states putting strict limits on drones saying, “From California to Washington State, and from New York to Missouri, legislators and the general public from left to right want to see a dangerous future stopped before it happens.”
Bills were signed into law in 2013 in Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Earlier this year, the South Carolina House passed a similar bill by a vote of 100-0.
The bill includes a number of narrow exceptions to the warrant requirement, including missing person searches, natural disasters, and missions for the Department of Homeland Security.
Maharrey noted that this was a good start, and early in the process.
“The 4th Amendment doesn’t say that you need a warrant ‘unless you’re helping the DHS’,” he said. “Gladly, this is just an early phase of the process. As it goes to the house for committee and floor consideration, it is our hope that a good representative there will offer an amendment to strike this peculiar language from the bill.”
Maharrey said that making this important change on the house side can have significant ramifications at the federal level because Washington D.C. is pushing and funding drone use at the state level.
“The feds want to push these on the states, and if the states refuse, it’ll foil their plan,” he said. “They already spy on Americans so much that Rand Paul said it numbered in the ‘Gazillions’ after a secret meeting last fall. If the feds can get the states to start buying up and running drones over our cities, they’ll certainly want access to all that surveillance information in the future. It’s important that states begin drawing a line in the sand now – no aerial spying here.”
Maharrey said that the federal government serves as the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance carried out by states and local communities. The Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so they can purchase drones. “Those grants, in and of themselves, represent an unconstitutional expansion of power,” he said.
“If enough states pass bills like this, it’ll foil their plans before they ever take off.”
If their plans are not foiled soon, drones constantly lurking in the skies may become a permanent fixture of life in the United States. According to a 2012 FAA estimate, there could be as many as 30,000 drones in the American skies by the end of the decade. If we are not successful right now in stopping or limiting the use of government drones, the 4th Amendment and basic privacy rights for individuals may be snuffed out forever.
SB330 would impose tough regulations against the use of government drones to keep Big Brother at bay in Louisiana and set a good example for other states.
If you live in Louisiana: Click HERE to find out what steps you can take to support SB330.
If you live in another state: Take action to limit drone use in your state HERE.