By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Inslee last week vetoed House Bill 2789, the House version of a bill introduced in the Senate by state Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, that would have required state or local law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants before using drones for surveillance.
Hargrove, along with state Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege, represents the 24th Legislative District, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.
Inslee said the bill's language on disclosure of personal information collected by drones could have led to shielding government uses of the devices from public disclosure.
“We must ensure that government transparency and accountability are amply provided, which are not clearly guaranteed in this legislation,” Inslee wrote in a letter to the state House of Representatives explaining his veto.
Hargrove said he had talked with Inslee on numerous occasions after the 2013 legislative session ended about the governor's concerns.
“Of course I was,” Hargrove said when asked whether he was disappointed with Inslee's decision.
“But it is what it is, so we'll work on it again.”
The legislation also would have required state agencies to get approval from the state Legislature or local governments, such as city councils, before purchasing drones.
Inslee issued a 15-month moratorium on state agencies under the governor's control purchasing or buying drones and asked local enforcement agencies to do the same, except in the instance of an extraordinary natural disaster.
He wrote that the moratorium will give more time for the bill to be more fully vetted.
The bill defined personal information as all information that “describes, locates, or indexes anything about a person,” according to a House staff bill report.
It placed limits on agencies disclosing this personal information and only allowed disclosure if there were probable cause that the information was evidence of criminal activity, according to the report.
Hargrove said he felt the language of the bill was clear and justified because it sought to protect personal privacy.
“These things are taking film as they go every place. To have that all disclosed in a public way might violate people's expectation of privacy,” Hargrove said.
Hargrove said he thought the bill addressed a wide range of concerns, as evidenced by the bipartisan support it received in the state House and Senate.
The bill passed 46-1 in the Senate and 83-15 in the House.
Hargrove said he intends to be involved with further discussions on the bill before next year's legislative sessions starts and hopes to address Inslee's concerns.
“I think finding that sweet spot is what we're going to have to work with,” Hargrove said.
“In the interim here, we'll have more time to focus on the specifics of what the objections were.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at email@example.com.