Drone bill passes house

OLYMPIA – Under provisions of a bill passed by the state house this week, Washington would become one of the first states in the nation to adopt rules governing the use of unmanned aircraft systems, or “drones.”

Rep. David Taylor, prime sponsor of House Bill 2789, said he was pleased with the support his measure has received from legislators representing all four corners of the state.

“I’ve said it before: personal liberty, freedom and privacy are not partisan issues,” said Taylor (R-Moxee). “I’ve worked with members on both sides of the aisle, from both chambers, from rural and urban areas and from all around the state.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a hardcore conservative or progressive liberal - we all want a government that is accountable to the people and we want to make sure those who are in power are not abusing it,” he added. “That’s what this bill is all about.”

Taylor’s proposal places sideboards on the use of drones in Washington by state agencies and outlines a system of reporting and procurement that will help hold them accountable for the use - or misuse - of surveillance aircraft.

“We’re not banning the use of drones as a couple of other states have done,” said Taylor. “We recognize they can serve a very legitimate and important service to the people of this state.”

He said lawmakers have to balance the idea of a potential high-tech tool with the possibility of an overreaching ‘big brother’ scenario.

Taylor’s bill also includes provisions to allow for the use of drones in any criminal investigation that is authorized by a warrant. The warrant application must specifically state why the use of such extraordinary measures are needed.

Other allowable uses include emergencies such as search and rescue missions, military training exercises on a military base, training and testing of devices where no personal information is collected, and in response to disasters or emergencies as declared by the governor.

Taylor said that after two years of working with numerous stakeholders, law enforcement, legislators, public policy experts and personal liberty advocates, his bill represents the best framework to start the process of regulating new surveillance technologies.

“We need to have something on the books and we need it now,” said Taylor. “If we need to make changes or alterations to our policy as we move forward and technologies evolve, we can do that. But we need a starting point.”

He said waiting for the perfect bill for the technology available now would be counterproductive because the technology will quickly become obsolete.

“As technologies change and grow, so can our policy - our protections,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he is grateful for the bipartisan support he’s received working on the bill, specifically calling out Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, a Democrat from the 43rd Legislative District representing the city of Seattle.

Taylor’s bill, which passed the house 83-15, now moves to the senate for further consideration.


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