Montana Legislature

Feb 6, 2013 11:05 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News

Montana Senate discusses drones and strip searches

HELENA - Montana lawmakers debated and voted on several bills relating to the right to privacy on Tuesday in Helena.

Article 2, Section 10 of the Montana Constitution states: "The right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest."

State Senator Robyn Driscoll (D-Billings) is carrying Senate Bill 150 which prohibits state and local governments from using unmanned aerial drones.

"A lot of people are using them: real estate, agriculture," Driscoll said in an interview. "There are some great uses for drones but as far as collecting evidence, that's almost like spying on a person."

Driscoll's bill is a more restrictive version of Senator Matthew Rosendale's (R-Glendive) Senate Bill 196 which also prohibits the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The major difference is Rosendale's bill would allow law enforcement to use a drone if they had a warrant. Driscoll's bill prohibits the government from even owning an unmanned aircraft.

The Senate passed Driscoll's bill with bipartisan support in a 32-17 vote. Senator Ed Buttrey (R-Great Falls) voted against the measure saying this bill isn't about black aircrafts spying in people's windows but instead about limiting the use of new technology.

Rosendale's bill is awaiting executive action in the Senate Judiciary committee. The unmanned drone debate isn't the only right to privacy legislation being discussed.

Senator Anders Blewett (D-Great Falls) is carrying a bill which prohibits law enforcement from conducting strip searches unless there is reason to believe the person is concealing a weapon or other contraband.

Blewett says Montanans deserve to have their right to privacy upheld.

"This is a good example of Montana's progressive Constitution, we have a right to privacy that is stronger than any other state in the country and it crosses party bounds," Blewett said after getting a 49-0 vote on his bill.

Blewett's bill is also receiving bipartisan support and is now heading to the House for a vote.


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