Jerry Brown Vetoes all Drone-Restricting Legislation

Jerry Brown (Sandy Huffaker / Getty)
Sandy Huffaker / Getty

California Governor Jerry Brown showed his unflinching support for unlimited drone operations by vetoing three bipartisan bills protecting privacy, public safety and education.

The California legislature had passed three bills, including Senate Bill 142, requiring drones to fly above 350 feet over private property; Senate Bill 170, prohibiting the flying of drones over a prison or county jail without permission; and Senate Bill 271, making it illegal to fly drones over K-12 schools during public schools hours.

Breitbart News reported in August 2014: “By next Christmas, aerial drones will be all the rage.” From basically ground zero in 2013, civilian drone sales are expected to top $1 billion this year and reach $4 billion a year by 2024, according to a report from Business Insider Intelligence.

But that viral success has caused real frustration and anger across a broad political spectrum. U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (CA-D) introduced federal legislation to direct the FAA to set altitude restrictions on private drone flight areas after she saw a drone peeping into her front room window one day last year. Federal Aviation Administration currently limitations only restrict flying of drones by hobbyists to a maximum of 400 feet.

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) said that her Senate Bill 142 legislation was designed to protect the public against the kind of peeping Toms that disturbed the privacy of Senator Feinstein. On her website, Jackson said that drones “should not be able to invade the privacy of our backyards and our private property without our permission.” The California bill passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan 56-13 vote in the Assembly and 21-10 in the Senate, before heading to the governor’s desk.

State Senator Patricia Bates (R- Laguna Niguel), co-sponsor of Senate Bill 170, said: “Drones offer many fantastic uses for society, but dropping porn, drugs and guns into our prisons and jails is not one of them.” Her bill would prohibit the flying of drones over a prison or county jail without permission, with certain exemptions for jail and prison employees, following reports that drones have been dropping drop tobacco, drugs and other contraband into prisons.

Rock-solid support from public safety organizations, including the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, explains why SB 170 unanimously passed the Senate 39-0.

Senate Bill 271, which would make it illegal to fly drones at certain heights over kindergarten through grade 12 public schools during school hours or extracurricular activities without permission, passed every committee and both the full Assembly and Senate on a unanimous vote.

Governor Brown said in his veto message that while drone technology raises a number of valid issues, signing the bills “could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation.” Brown made no specific comments regarding the veto of each bill.

The Democrat-controlled legislature appears to have the votes to overturn Brown’s veto easily, but such action would be the first since Jerry Brown’s first stint as Governor in the 1970s.



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