Drone prohibition bill rejected by House committee

LAUREN LANGLOIS, Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — House lawmakers killed a bill Tuesday that would have banned drones from flying over areas deemed "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
The House criminal justice committee voted 7-4 to reject the Senate-backed proposal by Sen. Mack "Bodi" White, R-Baton Rouge, after hearing concerns that the list of critical infrastructure was too broad.
White said the bill was meant to protect areas that are important to national security.
"I think it's important for our state," he said after the hearing. He said Louisiana has a big energy industry that could be targeted by increasingly sophisticated unmanned aircraft that are not well-regulated.
Critics, including the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, the Louisiana Press Association and the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters, argued the measure would prevent them from tracking and reporting on environmental disasters.
The list for critical infrastructure included power plants, water treatment facilities, banks and transportation systems, among others.
"It's very, very broad," said Kathy Wascom, legislative monitor for LEAN.
Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, agreed with opponents, saying the list even included roads. "It seems like an overall ban," she said.
Greg Bowser, executive vice president for the Louisiana Chemical Association, said the measure would not prevent regulatory agencies from flying drones, only unknown private drones. Bowser spoke on behalf of the proposal, which had support from the oil, nuclear and chemical industries.
Wascom said the state Department of Environmental Quality does not have those resources and relies on LEAN to report on environmental issues using its drones.
However, Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, was not convinced, saying she saw an unknown drone fly by her house that the Federal Aviation Administration could not identify.
Joining Hodges in supporting the measure were Reps. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia; Sherman Mack, R-Livingston; and Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro.
Voting against the bill were Moreno and Reps. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans; Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport; Mickey Guillory, D-Eunice; Chris Hazel, R-Pineville; Frank Howard, R-Many; and Ebony Woodruff, D-Harvey.

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