A Yakima Valley lawmaker’s proposal to regulate the use of domestic drones passed out of the House Public Safety Committee with bipartisan support Thursday.
With House Bill 1771, Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, wants to establish regulations for the purchase and use of public unmanned aircraft systems used by state and local government agencies.
“This bill is about being proactive and getting in front of the domestic drone issue,” Taylor said in a news release Friday. “Our intent is to fully protect Washington citizens’ constitutional rights and establish taxpayer protections.”
Taylor, whose conservative proposals are often at odds with the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives, has eight Democrats signed on as co-sponsors and has received public support for the legislation from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Under the law, any government agency would require legislative approval to obtain a drone, which have increasingly been used for police surveillance as well as emergency rescue response efforts around the country. If a municipal agency wants to purchase or use a drone, it must additionally receive approval from its governing body, such as a city council.
“Public safety is a critical responsibility of government and we understand that drones can play a role in law enforcement activities,” Taylor said. “We want a process that allows for these police activities with proper warrants or in an emergency.”
The bill may now move to the House floor for a full vote, and it would move on to the mostly Republican-controlled Senate if approved.