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Early Successes: Privacy Legislation Moving Forward in Several States

As we move into the heart of the state legislative season, we’ve already scored many successes, as a number of privacy bills supported by the OffNow project have moved forward in several states.

Legislators in more than a dozen states have introduced a version of the Fourth Amendment Protection Act to ban support and resources to federal agencies engaging in warrantless surveillance.

An Oklahoma committee unanimously passed that state’s Fourth Amendment Protection Act, and a similar bill cleared an Arizona Senate committee. In Montana, the Fourth Amendment Protection Act breezed through the entire committee process, and then passed a second reading by a razor thin margin in the full House, before going down by a single vote due to aggressive and sustained opposition by the Montana Department of Justice.

A pair of bills that together would ban the state from obtaining electronic data without a warrant passed the Montana House and are scheduled for a hearing in a Senate committee on March 13.

In Minnesota, a proposed constitutional amendment that would add electronic data to the state constitution’s search and seizure clause cleared its first committee hurdle. If the measure passes, it will go to the voters.

A bill to restrict the use of automatic license plate readers passed both houses in the Virginia legislature and went to the governors desk. A Montana bill limiting ALPRs cleared the Montana House and has moved over to the Senate for consideration.

The Virginia legislature also sent a measure limiting the use of drones by law enforcement to the governor’s desk. Virginia was the first state in the country to address law enforcement use of drones, placing a two-year ban on unmanned aerial vehicles back in 2013. The new law places permanent restrictions on law enforcement use of drones, requiring a warrant in most cases and banning weaponized drones.

Bills restricting drone use by law enforcement also cleared their respective Houses in both Washington sate and North Dakota. A Florida committee passed a bill that would strengthen that state’s current law on drone use by placing stringent limits on drones equipped with imaging devices.

The New Jersey legislature sent a bill to Gov. Christie that would place limits on state and local law enforcement’s ability to procure militarized equipment from federal surplus programs, and a similar measure moved forward in Montana, passing the state House.

This represents a solid start to the 2015 legislative session and we remain a long way from finished.  A number of privacy related bills still have not even started their journey through the legislative process.


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