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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

March 10, 2014 at 4:54 PM

Bill limiting drone use passes House, Senate

Under a bill passed in the state House and Senate, Washington would join nine other states in regulating the use of drones.

House Bill 2789 requires state agencies and law enforcement to receive approval from their governing bodies before procuring drones and to obtain warrants for most uses.

Rep. David Taylor, Moxee Republican and prime sponsor of the bill, introduced several bills this session to discourage the collection of information without a warrant. “It’s a fundamental freedom issue,” he said.

Taylor hopes the bill is a launch point for lawmakers to discuss an approach to regulating electronic surveillance.

The bill draws many policy points from another proposal, House Bill 1771, which stalled last year after Boeing complained to lawmakers that the measure could hurt the company’s plans to manufacture and test drones for use by law-enforcement and other agencies.

Drones could be used without warrants for non-law-enforcement purposes, including wildlife management, habitat preservation and environmental-damage assessment.

The state Senate amended the bill to clarify several provisions and call for the creation of a work group to study the use of drones for regulatory purposes, such as speed-limit enforcement.

The work group must submit a report before Dec. 1, and there will be a moratorium on regulatory enforcement until then.

The state House must approve these changes. Taylor said he supports the amendments and expects the bill will head to the governor’s desk shortly.

Rep. Jeff Morris, a Mount Vernon Democrat who chairs the House Technology and Economic Development Committee, sponsored House Bill 2178, which would ban the use of drones above private property without the owner’s consent.

The measure did not get a vote in the Senate before the deadline for legislation to pass out of the opposite house, but some of its policy points were included in Taylor’s bill.

 

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