DES MOINES, Iowa — The use of drones would be strictly regulated under a bill approved Wednesday by the Iowa House.
The bill received overwhelming support, clearing the House on an 87-12 vote, though several lawmakers expressed concern that it lacks clarity and might be overreaching. Even some of those with concerns supported the bill, which goes to the Senate.
The bill would require state and law enforcement officials to seek permission before buying or using drones, but details haven't been worked out about what agency would grant such requests. The measure would also prohibit the use of drones equipped with weapons, limit recording capabilities and provide penalties if the law isn't followed.
Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, who sponsored the bill, said he wants to keep ahead of an evolving issue and maintain the privacy of Iowa residents as drones become more common. He and other lawmakers stressed, though, that the legislation would be changed before it could become law.
"I have never shied away from explaining that this is the first stab at this issue," Klein said. "This is our first time we're talking about it on the floor. This is our first move to get it over to the Senate. What I would like to do at this point is get it to the Senate so we can continue to work on this issue and further develop it into an even better bill, which I think we can do."
Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, said the positive uses of drones, such as assessing weather damage or surveying school property for an intruder, far outweigh the negatives. She said the legislation is unnecessary.
"I'm really concerned in regard to this bill that instead of addressing illegal behaviors, we are addressing the use of an object that might have so many positive impacts," Winckler said.
Klein acknowledged that most Iowa residents properly use the devices, but said the ones who don't pose a risk to privacy.
"We have to deal with that small number of people," Klein said.
Some House member expressed concern that the measure is too complicated and said a drone bill up for debate in the Senate is much simpler. Others said they fear a decision is being made based on the assumption that drones can be detrimental to privacy.
But Rep. Deborah Berry, D-Waterloo, who served on the bill's subcommittee, said lawmakers can't expect the bill to be perfect.
"Anytime you move into an area that is unfamiliar, you're going to have questions," Berry said. "There are going to be uncertainties. There are going to be individuals that will probably not support any of it. ... But I do think as this issue of drones continues to rise, that we need to look at regulation. I think this bill is certainly a start in doing that."