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On the Hill with Klein – Week 7

By Jarad Klein

85th General Assembly, February 24 - 28, 2014
Week 7 was full of floor debate. This week in the House we spent our time debating bills that had survived the legislative funnel. Most of the bills we considered passed the House in a bipartisan manner and were sent over to the Senate for their consideration.
This week I also ran the Drone bill on the floor.  This is one of the more complex bills we are dealing with this year and the debate reflected it.  The debate lasted nearly an hour and a half with a wide range of questions and comments.  Some people had privacy questions; others wondered how it impacts government agencies.  Most of the questions were good and needed; however, a couple of other legislators did get a little out of hand.  One, in fact, thinks if we do this we should also regulate robots because he is scared of those too after seeing “Iron Man.”  In the end that particular legislator didn’t vote for the bill, and I didn’t correct him that Iron Man isn’t a robot (anyone with kids knows that).  If you think I am kidding you can go to the legislative video and see for yourself (http://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=House&Service=ArchiveDay&vid=917&iDate=2014-02-26 at 1:41:35.
Most people don’t watch floor debate, and I don’t blame them.  So you may wonder about some of the process and what it means to floor manage a bill.  The Floor Manager is the “expert” on the issue amongst the legislators.  We gain our knowledge from many sources and over several weeks or years.  Through the entire process of dealing with all the concerns and vetting all the issues the floor manager gains insight the others don’t get.  Floor managers work with all the other individual legislators to answer their questions and deal with any of their concerns.
When we debate bills like this the floor manager needs to be on their feet and engaged with each question the entire time.  It is a scenario where the other party gets to either take shots or prop up legislation being debated.  The floor manager answers questions and ensures the bill’s ultimate passage out of the House.
The bill itself, House File 2289, is a bill that ensures personal privacy rights by regulating the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) by Agencies and Private Citizens.   As we worked through this issue we identified numerous benefits, but also many possible abuses.  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) can be used positively by government to investigate possible criminal activity, monitor natural disasters, and searching for lost children, just to name a few.  Outside government UAVs have great possibilities for agriculture, media, and recreation.  With all the positives there is also a wide range of potential abuses.  Without any guidelines UAVs could be used to conduct investigations without the need for a search warrant.  The legislation helps protect agribusiness from theft and espionage.  Without this legislation it is perfectly legal to use a UAV to hover over a neighbor’s yard and post the video on the internet.  Without this legislation there is no punishment for pedophiles that use these increasingly cheaper systems to track kids.
A couple of important points to preface the issue.  First the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has no rules on UAVs yet, but is clearly stating that UAVs are not to be used for commercial profit.  So far they are only cracking down on media and a few others, but that may change in the future.  Also this legislation doesn’t say where you can fly; only what you can do when you are flying depending on your location.
The bill has two main prongs government and people (including commercial and private use).  If a State agency wants to acquire a UAV they must receive approval from the general assembly prior to the acquisition. UAVs acquired at the county, city or local government level shall be approved by the county board of supervisors, city council or other supervisory legislative body that oversees the political subdivision.  The idea behind this is to have the purchase of UAVs approved by an elected body which can be held accountable by the people.  Furthermore, any agency using an approved  UAV must provide the Department of Public Safety with the following information yearly: number of times a UAV was used and the purpose of each use, number of crimes investigations aided with the use of a UAV and the description of the use, a description of how the UAV aided in that purpose, and annual cost of the UAV program to the agency
If a government agency is found in violation the agency immediately loses the privilege of using UAVs,  the official who approved the inappropriate use shall at the very least be removed from any future involvement with UAVs, and the agency shall be required to obtain approval before UAVs may be used again.
In a the most basic sense we are saying agencies shall not use UAVs to capture images acquired through the use of UAVs.  However they may use UAVs to capture an image if the UAV is used in connection with a search warrant.  An agency may also use a UAV without preserving any images in the following circumstances: when searching for a suspect who committed a crime, when supporting the tactical operation of another agency, or for crowd monitoring at events
We also recognize there are other emergency situations. Agencies may use a UAV if an emergency exists based on a reasonable belief that an imminent threat exists to the life or safety of a person.           Within 48 hours a supervising official must file a sworn statement with the district court detailing the grounds for using the UAV in the emergency.  An agency may use UAVs on public property (no recording without a warrant, or within the exceptions listed above).

The other part of the legislation deals with everyone outside of government.  A person shall not use a UAV to capture images of another or private property with the intent to conduct surveillance, stalk, follow or intimidate.  A person may use a UAV to capture images of an individual with permission from the individual.  A person may also use a camera to navigate as long as they are not recording without permission.

Under this legislation a person shall not use a UAV with any of the following equipment, unless they have received approval from the tenant or land owner: emit a peculiar sound or excessive noise, spray a liquid or gas, or drop an object.  We made sure to include allowing the use with permission to allow for commercial and agriculture development as the FAA creates their rules.  If the FAA sys UAVs can be used for commercial profit, we don’t have to come back in a change the law.

We also made sure to include UAV’s in Offenses Relating to Agricultural Production.  If a UAV is used to enter a livestock or agriculture building without permission it carries the same penalties as someone who directly enters.  This protects our agricultural interest from outside interests wishing to do us harm.

There is nothing regulating the use of UAV’s over public ground when dealing with recording images.

Ultimately this is the first step in a long process that will need to be addressed over the years.  The bill passed out of the House  xx- xx, and now heads to the Senate.

Next week will be full of floor debate and subcommittees as we near our next funnel deadline.

Our next forum is March 15 at the Washington County Courthouse.  If you need to contact me before the upcoming forums you can reach me in Des Moines through the House switchboard at 515-281-3221, or email me at Jarad.Klein@legis.iowa.gov.