By Melanie Mason
SACRAMENTO — Lawmakers in the Assembly approved a slate of bills Wednesday, including one measure that would limit how law enforcement and public agencies can use unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones.
The bill, by Assemblymembers Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), would require public agencies to destroy data collected by drones within six months and would ban the weaponization of drones in California.
It also would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant to use a drone, except in certain emergency situations.
Gorell acknowledged that some in the state had called for a complete moratorium on drones; last year, the state of Virginia imposed a two-year ban on their use.
“I don’t think that’s the right answer here,” Gorell said. “The right answer, frankly, is for us to embrace the new technology because it is the future.”
“We also have to recognize there are going to have to be some parameters in place around how we use unmanned aerial vehicles,” he added. “We want Californians to feel confident that this legislative body is protecting their right to privacy.”
The bill, AB 1327, passed on a 59-5 vote.
The Assembly also approved a pair of measures by Assemblyman Richard Hershel Bloom (D-Santa Monica) that aim to rein in aggressive paparazzi behavior.
One bill, AB 1256, would make it illegal for someone to obstruct or interfere with a person attempting to enter or exit a facility such as a school or a hospital. Bloom said the measure would protect not just celebrities, who attract paparazzi attention, but other members of the public who may be bystanders.
“The children of celebrities, and especially their classmates who are attending school, should not be victimized and should feel safe from this kind of activity,” Bloom said.
The other measure, AB 1356, would expand the definition of stalking to include conduct that places a person under surveillance.
Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner (R-Irvine), speaking on the floor about the stalking bill, said he supported efforts to clamp down on abuses by paparazzi, but “this bill goes way too far to prohibit lots of conduct that is legitimate newsgathering.”
Media organizations had opposed both measures for potentially infringing on their ability to conduct newsgathering, raising 1st Amendment concerns.
“It’s not that mainstream newspaper photographers engage in the kind of behavior that paparazzi does, but the way the bills are written, it really blurs that line,” said Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Assn.
The measures now move to the Senate.