A bill has been introduced in the Pennsylvania state house which restrict the use of drones by government officials.
Introduced on Apr. 7 by Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R-99), House Bill 2158 (HB2158) states that “no State or local government, department, agency or instrumentality having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations shall employ the use of a drone” unless they have a proper warrant to do so.
After its introduction, the legislation was promptly referred to the Judiciary Committee where it will need to pass through a majority before it can be voted upon by the whole house.
HB2158 does include some narrow exceptions to the warrant requirement to allay the fears of law enforcement officials who did not want to be hamstrung in emergency situations when a drone’s use might spell life or death, such as Amber Alerts and search and rescue missions.
The bill also creates annual reporting standards that would make available to the public the number of times drones were used by law enforcement, what purposes they were used for, and the overall cost to the taxpayer.
The ACLU has weighed in on the issue on a national level, warning that “unregulated drone use could pose serious threats to our privacy.”
Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey noted that Pennsylvania is ready to join a growing chorus of states putting strict limits on drones. “Already, a number of states have passed similar bills into law, and we are expecting more in the coming weeks and months,” she said. “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.
Maharrey said that this kind of bill has 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.”
“If enough states pass bills like this, it’ll foil their plans before they ever take off.”
For Pennsylvania: Take steps to support HB2158 HERE.
For Other States: Take steps to nullify warrantless drone spying by clicking HERE.