Senate Approves Bill Co-Authored by Senator Patricia Bates to Protect First Responders from Drones

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The State Senate today unanimously approved bipartisan legislation authored by Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado) and co-authored by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) and others that would protect first responders if they damage a drone during the delivery of emergency services. Incidents in the past have endangered the lives of firefighters and highlighted the need for the state to act.

“The growing popularity of drones and their potential for abuse demands that state law be updated to protect firefighters and other first responders,” said Bates, who is a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management. “I commend Senator Gaines’ unwavering leadership on this issue as we seek to strike the appropriate balance between public safety and property rights. First responders should not have to worry about being held liable for damaging a drone that interferes with their work to save lives and property.”

Senate Bill 807 would limit the exposure to civil liability of an emergency responder for damaging a drone if the drone was interfering with the delivery of emergency services, such as a plane dropping water on a wildfire.

SB 807 is virtually the same as SB 168 (Gaines) last year. Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 168 despite unanimous support in the Legislature. The governor expressed concern about the creation of new crimes. However, Gaines, Bates and others believe that with drones growing in popularity, the potential for their abuse has increased considerably and necessitates an update in state law.

SB 807 now heads to the State Assembly for its consideration.