Bills affecting bus drivers and drones beat legislative deadline
Friday, June 2, 2017
Friday is the last day for policy committees to move bills out of their committees. Two bills were moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee late Thursday.
House Bill 2597 would expand the 2007 distracted driving law by prohibiting any person from operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device. HB 2597 includes a stricter interpretation of “hand-held device” and would eliminate some previous exceptions. The bill would also increase penalties for a first offense and subsequent offenses.
The committee amended the bill, adding an “affirmative defense” to the prosecution of a driver. School bus drivers pulled over for an infraction would need to go to court and prove that they were following employment policies for use of mobile devices. This action could become burdensome for schools.
The decision to amend the bill was not unanimous, and the committee said it needs additional technical adjustments. The bill was moved to the Senate Rules Committee.
House Bill 3047 deals with unmanned aircraft systems, also referred to as drones. In 2013, the Oregon Legislature enacted House Bill 2710, which provides guidance and restrictions on the use of drones within Oregon. Drones can be as large as a small aircraft or the size of a small bird.
High schools use drones, mostly within career and technical education programs. Students in the popular CTE programs build and fly drones of diverse types and styles.
HB 3047 is the next step in providing some flexibility for drone users such as schools and law enforcement. The bill would give post-secondary education institutions an exemption for some of the current law’s notification requirements. Because law enforcement has been receiving complaints of drone harassment, there is also a provision that would create an offense for intentionally, knowingly or recklessly operating a drone over private property to harass or annoy the owner of the property. A first offense would be a Class B violation, a second offense would be a Class A violation, and a third offense would be a Class B misdemeanor.
The notification exemption would not extend to school districts. CTE programs would still need to follow existing law and the prior notifications rules.