- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana lawmakers are making a bipartisan push to regulate drones, an area where developing technology meets privacy concerns.

A number of proposals under consideration in the House and Senate would criminalize drone trespassing, outline surveillance and privacy laws and establish registration and licensing guidelines.

Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said drones are “showing up on people’s radar better now” as the technology has become cheaper and more accessible. Some hobbyists fly the unmanned aircraft, but people also use them in a number of industries such as movie production and utility inspection.

To underscore his point, Claitor brought his own drone into the chamber and let it hover over the Senate floor during voting on one of his proposals.

“They were disappointed I didn’t fly it around more,” he said of his fellow lawmakers.

Backers of the legislative proposals say creation of statewide drone regulations will secure public and private property. Most of the measures have met little resistance so far, though none have reached final passage. Among the proposals:

CRIMINAL TRESPASS

Claitor tried unsuccessfully to enact drone regulations two years ago. He’s back again this year with a two-pronged legislative approach.

One of his bills, approved by the Senate, would regulate drones under criminal trespassing law, making it illegal to fly a drone over someone else’s property without permission. The measure awaits a House committee hearing.

A Senate judiciary committee voted 4-2 Tuesday for Claitor’s second drone bill, which would classify illegal drone trespassing or surveillance under criminal definitions, including those for stalking, assault or battery. The bill, Claitor said, is meant to target specific unwanted behaviors. It moves to the full Senate for debate.

Sen. Bodi White, R-Baton Rouge, wants to make it illegal for drones to intentionally pass police tape or other law enforcement partitions, including the airspace around each. The Senate unanimously approved the measure, which awaits a House committee hearing.

SURVEILLANCE AND PRIVACY

A proposal by Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, would make using a drone to watch, photograph or film a person without consent illegal under Louisiana’s invasion of privacy law, also known as the “peeping Tom” law. The bill sailed through the House and heads next to a Senate committee.

Rep. Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles, is taking a narrower approach. His proposal would ban drone use near schools, school property or correctional facilities. The proposal makes exceptions for police and situations where the landowner grants permission, such as recording football games at schools or universities that use the aircrafts for promotional purposes. The House-approved bill also awaits a Senate committee hearing.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES

Lawmakers have outlined criminal penalties for prohibited drone use.

Rep. James Armes, D-Leesville, has filed a proposal that would penalize illegal drone surveillance with a fine up to $500, a jail sentence up to six months or a combination of both.

REGISTRATION AND LICENSING

The Federal Aviation Administration already requires drone users to register their aircrafts, keep the systems in sight and avoid flying near airports. If lawmakers pass a bill from Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, people will have to pay registration and licensing fees when using the aircrafts for agricultural work. The House approved the proposal Monday, sending it to the Senate for consideration.

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Online:

House Bills 19, 335, 635 and 811 and Senate Bills 73, 124 and 141: www.legis.la.gov

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