CA Governor’s mixed messages on drone bills
Gov. Jerry Brown had curious, seemingly contradictory, responses to a succession of bills designed to regulate the proliferation of drones in California. He vetoed legislation that would have prohibited flying an unmanned vehicle above private property, and also spiked measures restricting drones over wildfires, schools, prisons and jails.
Yet the governor signed legislation designed to prevent paparazzi from sending drones over private property to take photos or videos of private activities.
Hollywood actors, rock stars and other celebrities now can worry less about aerial intrusions, thanks to the governor’s actions. Firefighters, schoolchildren, prison guards and inmates — they will have to make do with existing law.
The governor’s rationale on the various bills was classic Jerry Brown: reflecting both serious contemplation, a minimalist approach to government and no fear of being accused of inconsistency. This is the governor who once famously asserted to legislators that “not every human problem deserves a law.”
Neither, apparently, do problems related to unmanned aircraft.
Of the drone-related bills he vetoed, Brown lumped them into a set of other crime-related measures he rejected — including use of bullhooks by elephant trainers and removal of location-tracking devices by sex offenders — in suggesting that existing law could be applied to such misbehavior.
“Each of these bills creates a new crime — usually by finding a novel way to characterize and criminalize conduct that is already proscribed,” he wrote, noting that the criminal code already has more than 5,000 elements.
The bill that would have prohibited a drone from traversing private property at less than 350 feet had its own particular complications. Because the Federal Aviation Administration bans civilian drones from flying at higher than 400 feet, the bill would have left a narrow passageway for hobbyists and commercial ventures.
“Before we go down that path, let’s look at this more carefully,” Brown said in his veto message.
Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is among several lawmakers working on federal legislation to regulate how and where drones can be flown. Her office recently released an analysis of airport incidents involving drones — including complaints of pilots about near misses. The FAA has received reports of nearly 1,000 such encounters since April 2014.
The skies remain largely a Wild West of drone activity even as the numbers and uses of such devices continue to escalate — with the prospect of commercial deliveries on the horizon.
At least California celebrities can relax in their hot tubs without fear of aerial intrusion.