California legislators recently introduced two pieces of bipartisan legislation addressing domestic UAV production. The bills will create tax exemptions for companies producing drones and protect Californians' privacy from unwarranted surveillance.
Assembly members Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo) announced on Wednesday that they have joint-authored two bills to address this issue, AB 1326 and AB 1327.
AB 1326 deals primarily with the financial aspects of this industry as it will provide tax breaks for companies like AeroVironment, Inc. These tax exemptions will ultimately finance the construction of manufacturing plants as well as the purchase of necessary equipment to construct UAVs.
“The defense industry has been a huge incubator of jobs in California, especially Southern California,” said Bradford in a recent press release. “We want these well-paying, high-tech manufacturing jobs to continue to grow here in California.” Tweet quote: Tweet
Whereas AB 1326 is predominantly financial, AB 1327 protects Californians from unwarranted surveillance to counteract privacy infringement. The bill will require law enforcement agencies to publish and adopt regulations to prevent surveillance of citizens "without their consent."
Addressing the protection of privacy, Assemblyman Gorell said:
“UAV manufacturing will experience 700% growth in the next 6 years, a great opportunity for California’s economy. But the privacy concerns must be addressed before the public will feel comfortable with all of the benefits that come from the use of this technology. Our legislation clarifies how law enforcement and other public agencies will be allowed to use UAVs, and protects the public from unwarranted intrusions.” Tweet quote: Tweet
Another piece of legislation, SB 15, was introduced by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima). Padilla's legislation places responsibility on the state to formulate restrictions regarding surveillance rather than local law enforcement.
Current Drone Lobbying in California and Border States
Some of the most successful drone production companies are based in southern California. These companies are supported by the powerful drone caucus, which has eight members sitting on the House Committee of Appropriations in D.C.
General Atomics, Northrop Grumman Corporation, and AeroVironment are among these large producers in California and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for their industry. This is not only occurring in California, though, as border states are also key markets.
According to a KPBS article, the LA-based defense firm, Northrop Grumman, gave "close to $150,000 to sixteen drone caucus members representing districts in California, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada."
In 2011 and 2012, General Atomics’ PAC also gave over $140,000 to caucus members in border states. It is among the top three campaign contributors to California Representative Brian Bilbray, Ken Calvert, Jerry Lewis, and Howard "Buck" McKeon.
Recently, the Teal Group published a study in which they estimate that UAV spending "will almost double over the next decade from current worldwide UAV expenditures." Share the news: Tweet
According to the report, these numbers will rise from $6.6 billion annually to $11.4 billion, adding up to $89 billion in the next ten years.
While the enthusiasm to keep these companies on U.S. soil can be viewed as a financial positive for some, it will indefinitely raise a level of concern with citizens. The term "drone" itself has ominous connotations for most, especially when the production companies have close financial ties to representatives.
AB 1326, AB 1327, and SB 15 all address industry needs and privacy issues through concrete legislation. Since UAV production is sure to remain big business in California, garnering public support on this issue will be paramount.