- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Lawmakers in the Louisiana House grounded a Senate-backed bill Tuesday that sought to restrict the use of drones on private property in Louisiana.

The House criminal justice committee voted 7-6 to reject the proposal from Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, after hearing opposition from environmental and media organizations who criticized the proposal as too broad.

Democrat Rep. Helena Moreno, a former news reporter from New Orleans, broke the tie by voting against the measure, killing the bill.

Under the bill, a person couldn’t use a drone on private property to capture sounds and images without the owner’s consent. The measure had exceptions for law enforcement and the military, among others.

Claitor, who had a drone with him to show how he took a photo of a neighbor’s backyard, said the measure would protect the right to privacy. He said drones are inexpensive and easy to use for spying on people.

“It’s not made-up science fiction,” he said.

Representatives from the media and environmental groups disagreed, saying drones are often used to gather useful information to help the public. The press uses drones to capture information for news stories and environmental groups use the technology to monitor environmental issues, they said.

“The drone is simply another tool,” said Sonya Duhe, a journalism professor at Loyola University.

Kathy Wascom, legislative monitor for the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, said her group uses drones to keep track of the Mississippi River and the Atchafalaya Basin, which means sometimes flying over private property. She said this measure would make their job nearly impossible.

Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, spoke to support opponents, saying the state should wait for the Federal Aviation Administration’s new regulations on drones, which are coming next September.

“Let the federal government do their job,” she said.

Claitor said the measure would not ban drones, just regulate them, which lawmakers have done for past new technologies.

“We did it with cars. We did it with planes,” he said.

Nearly half the committee agreed with Claitor, saying that drones pose a threat to people’s right to privacy and need to be regulated.

“It is a privacy issue whether we like it or not,” Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, said.

Joining Burrell in supporting the measure were Reps. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans; Terry Brown, I-Colfax; Mickey Guillory, D-Eunice; Sherman Mack, R-Livingston; and Ebony Woodruff, D-Harvey.

However, Moreno came to the hearing in time to break the tie. Joining Moreno were Norton and Reps. Bryan Adams, R-Gretna; Chris Hazel, R-Pineville; Dalton Honore, D-Baton Rouge; Terry Landry, D-New Iberia; and Steve Plyant, R-Winnsboro.



Senate Bill 330 can be found at www.legis.la.gov

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