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Bill Banning Drones Clears First Senate Committee

A Senate panel looking at Criminal Justice issues unanimously passed its first bill Tuesday. Senate Bill 92 would ban agencies from using drones to spy on citizens.

The bill’s sponsor Republican Senator Joe Negron says the measure bans law enforcement and government agencies from using drones to gather evidence or other information by monitoring Florida residents. Negron says the bill intends to protect citizens’ right to privacy.

“Drones are fine to kill terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they shouldn’t be used to monitor the lawful activities of Floridians," said Negron.

"And, we shouldn’t as a general practice, have drones hovering in the sky monitoring Floridians. That's not consistent with the American experience. That’s not something that we believe is an appropriate role for Government.”

But, at the same time, Negron says there needs to be a balance to help out law enforcement and government agencies who utilize the technology for good reasons. So, his bill includes some exceptions.

“It was brought to my attention that drones can sometimes be helpful if there’s a hostage situation to survey the situation which could be used to protect," said Negron.

"Also, if there’s a fire or something where there was an emergency situation. And, lastly, for example, if there was an 11-year-old girl who was missing, maybe that would be helpful in the search.”

Negron says he's still willing to work more with law enforcement agencies as well as lawmakers to iron out the bill to make something everyone wants.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee was the bill’s first stop. It has three more stops to go before heading to the Senate floor.  Meanwhile, the House Bill, sponsored by Republican Representative Ritch Workman, has not yet been heard.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.