How to enact drone legislation in your stateTuesday, March 18, 2014 at 9:02 am by Michael Poon
1. Decide what you want
The first step is to decide what you want. There are different kinds of drone regulations. Two primary categories are public vs. private regulation. Do you want to regulate private drone use (e.g., stopping your neighbor from looking through your window with a drone), or public drone use (e.g., police or regulatory agencies surveilling an area or people like Illinois’ law), or both (like Montana’s law)? Have a rough idea of what you want so that you can pitch it to others when you…
2. Form a coalition
Once you have an idea of what you want, you need to team up others. Make a broad, transpartisan list of organizations to reach out to: legal, student, ethnic, immigrant, labor, business, and religious organizations, as well as political ones. The broader and more diverse your coalition is, the more you can pressure your representatives and the greater the possibility of your bill’s passage.
For example, the ACLU teamed up with the Tea Party in Virginia on drone legislation. This showed Virginian legislators that drone legislation was important to many people, helping the passage of Virginia’s two-year drone moratorium.
Once you have your list, reach out to them and start planning the next steps together!
3. Find a sponsor
Every bill needs a sponsor, an elected representative in your legislature who will write the bill’s text and fight for it throughout the lawmaking process. Be careful which representatives you pick to approach; there are many factors to consider. Do bills sponsored by Democrats or Republicans have a greater chance of passage in your legislature? Which representatives are well-respected or hold powerful committee positions? Which representatives might be the most receptive to a drone bill?
Think about how to market your bill to the sponsor. It doesn’t just have to be about surveillance. For example, in Virginia, agricultural groups supported the moratorium because they didn’t want regulatory agencies monitoring their operations with drones. Speaking of marketing, you’ll be doing more of it when you…
4. Educate the public and pressure for passage
Now, your bill needs support from the general public. Talk to your friends and neighbors, and write letters to your local newspapers’ editors. Create a Facebook page or Twitter account for your coalition. Speak or write about why the bill is important to you and what’s at stake (and have others in the coalition do so too). Tell them to find and call their representatives.
Consider holding events. Ask some of the organizations in your coalition if they could host or send speakers to an event, then publicize it in the local news, in local radio, or through social media. Email news writers and invite them to cover your event or the bill’s progress.
This step will be the test of your coalition. Will your bill pass? If it does…
Congratulations! You’ve passed a bill regulating drones. As you move forward, remember to monitor the execution of the new law to make sure it’s implemented correctly. Also, hold on to the contacts you’ve made within your coalition. There might be another issue you’ll want to work on together.