Brown Vetoes Drone Bills

By on October 8, 2015
Yucaipa Politics March, 2015

Last week Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have increased penalties for those who fly unmanned aircraft, or drones, over wildfires and interfere with firefighting operations. Several bills were introduced in the state legislature earlier this year after several firefighting operations were halted due to drone activity. Brown vetoed the bills, saying that he was against creating new crimes

“Over the last several decades, California’s criminal code has grown to more than 5,000 separate provisions, covering almost every conceivable form of human misbehavior,” Brown wrote in his veto statement. “During the same period, our jail and prison populations have exploded. Before we keep going down this road I think we should pause and reflect on how our system of criminal justice be made more human, more just and more cost-effective.”

Fire crews battling the Lake Fire were forced to halt aerial operations June 24 when a large unmanned aircraft flew near to a water-dropping aircraft. As result, the fire grew. At other Southern California fires this summer the air attack was halted for similar reasons. At a fire in the Cajon pass as many as five drones were spotted in the air at the same time.

Unmanned aircraft pose a threat to fire crews working in the air and on the ground. CalFire has launched a campaign with the slogan, “If you Fly, We Can’t,” to educate the public about the risks and penalties for interfering with firefighting operations.

Sen. Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga), who represents Yucaipa, co-authored legislation that would have imposed a maximum penalty of $5,000 and six months in county jail for intentionally or recklessly interfering with firefighting operations.

Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) introduced legislation at the federal level that would make such an action a federal offense. His bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard that aerial firefighting was brought to a grinding halt because a reckless individual decided to fly a drone over the Lake Fire,” Cook said when he introduce the bill July 10. “Not only did it put the lives of aerial firefighters in jeopardy, but the loss of air support for fire crews allowed the wildfire to spread. Interfering with our firefighters is a serious problem, and this legislation will ensure that those who endanger our firefighters in the future will face a serious penalty.”

In addition to the wildfire legislation, Gov. Brown vetoed bills that would have restricted flights over K-12 schools and prohibited drone operations over prisons.

On Monday Gov. Brown approved legislation that makes it illegal for paparazzi to operate drones over private property.