NBCRightNow.com - Under provisions of a bill passed by the state House today, Washington would become one of the first states in the nation to adopt rules governing the use of unmanned aircraft systems, or "drones."
"What a difference a year makes! I've said it before: personal liberty, freedom and privacy are not partisan issues," said Taylor, who has worked extensively on the issue over the past two years. "I've worked with members on both sides of the aisle, from both chambers, from rural and urban areas and from all around the state. It doesn't matter if you're a hardcore conservative or progressive liberal – we all want a government that is accountable to the people and we want to make sure those who are in power are not abusing it. That's what this bill is all about."
Taylor's proposal places sideboards on the use of drones in Washington by state agencies and outlines a system of reporting and procurement that will help hold them accountable for the use – or misuse – of surveillance aircraft.
"We're not banning the use of drones as a couple of other states have done. We recognize they can serve a very legitimate and important service to the people of this state. We just want to make sure that as technology evolves and these systems become more and more readily available, our government doesn't begin relying on them for regulatory enforcement," said Taylor. "We have to balance the idea of a potential high-tech tool with the possibility of an overreaching ‘big brother' scenario."
Taylor's bill also includes provisions to allow for the use of drones in any criminal investigation that is authorized by a warrant. The warrant application must specifically state why the use of such extraordinary measures are needed. Other allowable uses include emergencies such as search and rescue missions, military training exercises on a military base, training and testing of devices where no personal information is collected, and in response to disasters or emergencies as declared by the governor.
Taylor said that after two years of working with numerous stakeholders, law enforcement, legislators, public policy experts and personal liberty advocates, his bill represents the best framework to start the process of regulating new surveillance technologies.
"We have to balance public safety, liability and individual liberty. We need to have something on the books and we need it now," said Taylor. "If we need to make changes or alterations to our policy as we move forward and technologies evolve, we can do that. But we need a starting point. If we wait for the perfect bill for the technology available now, it will obsolete by tomorrow. As technologies change and grow, so can our policy – our protections."
Taylor said he was grateful for the bipartisan support he's received working on the bill, specifically calling out Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, a Democrat from the 43rd Legislative District representing the city of Seattle.
"Frankly, I'm not sure if this bill comes up to the House floor today for a vote without his support and without his input," said Taylor. "He was very instrumental in communicating with his caucus and getting his members to see the importance of taking action this year."
Taylor's bill, which passed the House 83-15, now moves to the Senate for further consideration.