Legislative roundup: Drone, computer science bills before Iowa lawmakers

The Iowa statehouse seen behind Gray's Lake in Des Moines. (William Heusmann/Flickr)

In recent weeks, after setting aside adjustments to the 2017 budget, Iowa lawmakers have begun proposing and debating legislation. A lot of time has been spent on large and controversial items, including removing funding for Planned Parenthood and changes to the state’s collective bargaining rules.

Even with the attention on those issues, some bills have made their way before lawmakers that may be of interest to Iowa entrepreneurs and technology companies. They include a proposal on how the state should regulate unmanned aerial vehicles and a computer science law the governor championed earlier this year.

Here’s a quick look at some of that legislation:

Drones

A bill before an Iowa House committee lays out rules for how state agencies can use unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones.

The legislation covers a lot of ground. One section would prohibit law enforcement from taking images with or archiving data collected by a drone unless a search warrant is issued.

It would also limit what individuals could do with their drones, unless they have prior permission or are using UAVs over their own property. For instance, drones could not be used to drop objects, spray liquids or gasses or emit sounds. Taking pictures of others would also be off limits unless given prior permission or a picture is taken on public property.

Drones also could not be equipped with weapons, but the U.S. armed forces and Iowa national guard would be exempt.

Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, is leading the drone-bill discussion, Radio Iowa reported.

“I don’t anticipate rushing this by any means, but we’re going to keep it moving along,” Klein told Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson. “We’re going to address the concerns that everybody’s bringing up and make sure we’re good to roll.”

It’s not the first time Iowa government has regulated the use of drones. In 2014, state lawmakers approved legislation prohibiting state or local law enforcement from using drones for traffic enforcement, The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported.

A year prior, Iowa City also passed rules that banned drones for surveillance purposes.

What to look for: HSB 88.

Computer science

The governor’s office officially proposed its computer science legislation earlier this month. The bill text is fairly similar to what Clay & Milk reported in January.

Broadly, the bill would task the Iowa Department of Education with adopting rules to establish “high-quality standards” for computer science education in elementary, middle and high schools. It would also setup a fund to offset the cost of teacher training in computer science.

What to look for: HSB 107 and SSB 1047. The House and Senate study bills are identical.

Fantasy sports betting

One bill would make it legal for cash-paying fantasy sports contest – think Draft Kings and Fan Duel – to operate in Iowa and allow Iowans to participate.

Similar legislation has come up in past years, but failed.

What to look for: HSB 52.

Benefit Corporations

Business founders could incorporate their companies as “benefit corporations” under a proposed bill. The legislation would allow for-profit corporations to become a benefit corporation “with the purpose of operating in a responsible and sustainable manner,” the bill explanation reads.

Public benefits could be artistic, charitable, cultural, economic, educational, cultural, literary, religious, social, ecological or scientific in nature, according to the legislation.

What to look for: HF 62 and SF 221.

Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at mpatane@clayandmilk.com.