Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., has vetoed a bill that would have placed restrictions on government usage of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). However, in issuing the veto, the governor also placed a 15-month moratorium on the purchase and use of UAS by state and local agencies to allow the legislature to revisit the issue in the next session.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington reports that the legislation passed the Senate with a 46-1 vote and House with a 77-21 vote. The bill, the ACLU adds, would have required legislative approval before an agency acquires drones. Furthermore, the measure mandated warrants for government UAS usage beyond certain circumstances and emergencies, and agencies would have been required to report how and how often they use drones. The governor's veto did make exceptions in order to deploy UAS for emergencies.
Although Inslee cites concerns about ‘extraordinary sensing devices’ attached to UAS allowing potentially suspicionless and warrantless surveillance, he says the bill is not the appropriate first step ‘to build clear standards for procurement, use and data collection policies for new technology.’
According to the governor, the measure ‘contains conflicting provisions on disclosure and destruction of personal information’ that ‘could lead to shielding government uses of [UAS] technology from public disclosure.’
In addition, Inslee notes that the legislation ‘includes an expansive new definition of personal information that would make it impossible to use this technology without violating the prohibitions as written in this bill and lacks the clarity necessary to give both regulatory and law enforcement agencies – and the public – a clear understanding of how these technologies can and will be used in the future.’
The governor's office will form a task force this month to develop ‘a fully vetted bill for the 2015 legislative session.’ The group will include legislators, the ACLU, state agencies, law enforcement, industry and citizens-at-large.