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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published March 15 2013

North Dakota Senate puts down drone bill

BISMARCK – The Senate on Friday shot down a bill that would have required law enforcement to obtain a search warrant to use an unmanned aircraft system, or drone.

The Senate first voted to remove all of the language except the provision that would have studied the implications of using drones for surveillance purposes.

The study was then voted down with a 41 to 3 vote, killing the bill.

The vote reverses the House vote that passed the measure in February by a 60-31 vote.

Opponents to House Bill 1373 said it was too broad and would have affected many state agencies that use drones to survey land, for instance. They also argued the technology is premature and the bill could have affected the state’s ability to become one of six national drone test sites near the University of North Dakota campus.

Proponents argued drone usage is becoming more prevalent and the potential for them to be used improperly, possibly violating Fourth Amendment rights to unreasonable search and seizures, is much higher.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, said the Senate voting down his bill isn’t as bad as some of the arguments to vote it down.

“Money before rights is not a good thing,” he said, referring to the potential economic development from the test site.

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