Bipartisan Drone Bill Introduced in Madison

Late last week, Rep. Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), Rep. Frederick P. Kessler (D-Milwaukee), Rep. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) introduced a bill that would ensure drones do not threaten the privacy rights of people in Wisconsin. A number of other states already have similar laws restricting the use of drones or are considering enacting them. With the growing sophistication of drone technology and decreasing costs it is inevitable that local law enforcement agencies will start to employ drones here in Wisconsin.

So what does the bill entail? First of all it prohibits the use of drones in surveillance by law enforcement agencies without a warrant…except in limited cases such as search and rescue or active police situations where the public and law enforcement are in immediate danger. Any evidence collected during an illegal use of a drone is automatically inadmissible in court.

According to the synopsis from the Legislative Reference Bureau:

The bill prohibits a person, except a law enforcement officer who has a search warrant or is acting for a permissible emergency purpose, from using a drone that is equipped with video or audio recording equipment to photograph,
record, or otherwise observe another individual in a place where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The actual bill states it this way:

942.10 Use of a drone. Whoever uses a drone, as defined in s. 175.55 (1) (a), to photograph, record, or otherwise observe another individual in a place where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy is guilty of Class A misdemeanor. This section does not apply to a law enforcement officer authorized to use a drone
pursuant to s. 175.55 (2).

So I guess my question as a civilian is, what is the definition of ‘person’ or ‘whoever’? Would that include Google? Facebook? The Department of Public Works? Organizations that are not law enforcement but also clearly not an individual? I don’t think it would hurt to have a bit more clarity on this item. I would like to think that not only individuals but corporations, political parties, government agencies, and other organizations would also be prohibited from spying on Americans.

And lastly, again from the LRB synopis, you can’t weaponize your drones:

Under the bill, a person who sells, possesses, or uses a weaponized drone is guilty of a Class H felony, and may be fined up to $10,000, imprisoned for up to six years, or both.

Now, I am certainly in agreement that prohibiting weaponized drones is a good idea…great idea…but will the NRA go on the offensive because this is an infringement of ‘our’ second amendment rights or do they really only care about guns?

Mosquite Drone

Common Cause, Center for Media and Democracy reach settlement with 5 GOP lawmakers who skirted open records laws

Exactly one month ago, I wrote about a lawsuit filed against five Republican lawmakers here in Wisconsinby the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause (CC). In their lawsuit, the Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause alleged the five Republican lawmakers in question failed to provide ALEC-related records sought under Wisconsin’s Open Records Law. At the time, the five Republicans in question – State Representatives Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), Tom Larson (R-Colfax), and Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) – denied the existance of any ALEC-related records held on their private email accounts in an attempt to avoid open records laws.

On Tuesday the Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause announced a settlement to their lawsuit against the five Republican lawmakers, with those lawmakers agreeing to turn over email records relating to ALEC that they held on their private email accounts in an attempt to skirt open records laws.

“As part of the settlement agreement, the five legislators admitted that ALEC-related records were held on their personal email accounts and are covered by the Open Records Law,” said Center for Media and Democracy Staff Counsel Brendan Fischer, who filed the complaint. “They are finally complying with the law and agreeing to release those records to the public.”

The five legislators — Representatives Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), Tom Larson (R-Colfax), and Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) — also acknowledged they have a duty as elected officials to fully comply with records requests from the public. They will pay $2,520 in court costs and attorney’s fees involved in bringing the lawsuit.

The settlement of the suit brought against the five Republican lawmakers is certainly a victory for anyone who values open, transparent government, but I hope it’s just the first of many attempts to open our halls of government and shine some much-needed light on what Republican lawmakers have been up to in Madison and why they’ve been trying so hard to hide what they’re up to.