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Capital Beat

Capital Beat: In 2014, drones will be back at the N.H. State House

  • ADVANCE FOR MONDAY, FEB. 27, 2012 AND THEREAFTER - In this Jan. 8, 2009, photo provided by the Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff's Department, a small Draganflyer X6 drone makes a test flight in Mesa County, Colo. with a Forward Looking Infrared payload. The drone, which was on loan to the sheriff's department from the manufacturer, measures about 36 inches from rotor tip to rotor tip, weights just over two pounds. Unmanned military aircraft have tracked and killed terrorists in the Middle East and Asia. Their civilian cousins are now in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird’s-eye view that’s too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get. Along with the enthusiasm, there are qualms. Drones overhead could invade people’s privacy. The government worries they could collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground, concerns that have slowed more widespread adoption of the technology. (AP Photo/Mesa County Sheriff's Unmanned Operations Team)

    ADVANCE FOR MONDAY, FEB. 27, 2012 AND THEREAFTER - In this Jan. 8, 2009, photo provided by the Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff's Department, a small Draganflyer X6 drone makes a test flight in Mesa County, Colo. with a Forward Looking Infrared payload. The drone, which was on loan to the sheriff's department from the manufacturer, measures about 36 inches from rotor tip to rotor tip, weights just over two pounds. Unmanned military aircraft have tracked and killed terrorists in the Middle East and Asia. Their civilian cousins are now in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird’s-eye view that’s too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get. Along with the enthusiasm, there are qualms. Drones overhead could invade people’s privacy. The government worries they could collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground, concerns that have slowed more widespread adoption of the technology. (AP Photo/Mesa County Sheriff's Unmanned Operations Team)

  • This undated photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows an unmanned drone used to patrol the U.S.-Canadian border. A freshman lawmaker from North Dakota says he plans to introduce a bill that would limit the use of unmanned aerial systems for law enforcement, following the highly publicized case of a Lakota farmer who was arrested after a 16-hour standoff with police. (AP Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

    This undated photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows an unmanned drone used to patrol the U.S.-Canadian border. A freshman lawmaker from North Dakota says he plans to introduce a bill that would limit the use of unmanned aerial systems for law enforcement, following the highly publicized case of a Lakota farmer who was arrested after a 16-hour standoff with police. (AP Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

  •  This undated photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows an unmanned drone used to patrol the U.S.-Canadian border. A freshman lawmaker from North Dakota says he plans to introduce a bill that would limit the use of unmanned aerial systems for law enforcement, following the highly publicized case of a Lakota farmer who was arrested after a 16-hour standoff with police. (AP Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

    This undated photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows an unmanned drone used to patrol the U.S.-Canadian border. A freshman lawmaker from North Dakota says he plans to introduce a bill that would limit the use of unmanned aerial systems for law enforcement, following the highly publicized case of a Lakota farmer who was arrested after a 16-hour standoff with police. (AP Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

  • A drone is flown over the Statehouse in a demonstration by the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union  on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 in Montpelier, Vt.  Executive director Allen Gilbert says the ACLU is going to ask the Legislature to regulate surveillance of private citizens by state, local and federal law enforcement agencies. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

    A drone is flown over the Statehouse in a demonstration by the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 in Montpelier, Vt. Executive director Allen Gilbert says the ACLU is going to ask the Legislature to regulate surveillance of private citizens by state, local and federal law enforcement agencies. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

  • ADVANCE FOR MONDAY, FEB. 27, 2012 AND THEREAFTER - In this Jan. 8, 2009, photo provided by the Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff's Department, a small Draganflyer X6 drone makes a test flight in Mesa County, Colo. with a Forward Looking Infrared payload. The drone, which was on loan to the sheriff's department from the manufacturer, measures about 36 inches from rotor tip to rotor tip, weights just over two pounds. Unmanned military aircraft have tracked and killed terrorists in the Middle East and Asia. Their civilian cousins are now in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird’s-eye view that’s too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get. Along with the enthusiasm, there are qualms. Drones overhead could invade people’s privacy. The government worries they could collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground, concerns that have slowed more widespread adoption of the technology. (AP Photo/Mesa County Sheriff's Unmanned Operations Team)
  • This undated photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows an unmanned drone used to patrol the U.S.-Canadian border. A freshman lawmaker from North Dakota says he plans to introduce a bill that would limit the use of unmanned aerial systems for law enforcement, following the highly publicized case of a Lakota farmer who was arrested after a 16-hour standoff with police. (AP Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
  •  This undated photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows an unmanned drone used to patrol the U.S.-Canadian border. A freshman lawmaker from North Dakota says he plans to introduce a bill that would limit the use of unmanned aerial systems for law enforcement, following the highly publicized case of a Lakota farmer who was arrested after a 16-hour standoff with police. (AP Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
  • A drone is flown over the Statehouse in a demonstration by the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union  on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 in Montpelier, Vt.  Executive director Allen Gilbert says the ACLU is going to ask the Legislature to regulate surveillance of private citizens by state, local and federal law enforcement agencies. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

If you hear a faint buzzing near the State House next year, it might be drones flying overhead – or it could be lawmakers, debating what to do about them.

After an abortive attempt this year to regulate the use of drones in New Hampshire, at least two House members are planning to introduce bills next year on the subject.

They’re not alone: Drone legislation has been proposed in 42 states and become law in eight, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU has been critical of potential domestic surveillance by unmanned aircraft, the flying robots best known for launching missile strikes against suspected terrorists overseas in recent years.

Rep. Neal Kurk of Weare and Rep. Joe Duarte of Candia, both Republicans, plan to take different approaches in 2014.

Duarte has filed a legislative service request for a 2014 bill that he said would be narrowly focused: barring New Hampshire law enforcement agencies from presenting evidence in court that was collected by drones without a valid warrant.

“All I want to do is prohibit unwarranted drones, because right now our people follow the law but there’s a lot of ambiguity when it comes to drones,” Duarte said.

He added, “If a few people in our state feel a little more secure that someone’s watching out for them, then it’s worth it.”

Kurk, on the other hand, had a bill this year seeking to restrict any use of drones in the skies over New Hampshire, and ban all armed drones. The House left it to die on the table, but Kurk said he plans to introduce a new bill in 2014.

He declined to discuss it in detail last week, but indicated the new legislation would take a broad approach to regulating drones – those flown by government agencies, and any owned by individuals or private firms.

“I think companies are going to be learning to use these drones for purposes that may advance their economic interests, but may be at the expense of New Hampshire citizens’ privacy interests,” Kurk said.

Duarte, though, said he’s wary of treading on the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulation of U.S. airspace.

In any case, he said, he hopes the Legislature – split between a Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate – can make some headway on the issue.

“Both sides of the aisle have concerns about it,” Duarte said. “It’s not a partisan thing.”

Kurk said something has to be done, citing the revelations this summer about widespread electronic-surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency.

“After NSA PRISM, it’s more important than it ever has been,” Kurk said.

It’s not clear how many drones, if any, are operating above New Hampshire. The state police force “does not have drones,” said spokeswoman Lt. Nicole Armaganian.

But the Electronic Frontier Foundation, citing documents obtained under a freedom-of-information lawsuit, this summer said Customs and Border Protection had been flying 10 Predator drones over the southern and northern U.S. borders, with plans to expand its fleet to 24 aircraft by 2016. New Hampshire, of course, borders Canada.

Death penalty, sugar packets

With the window now open for House members to file LSRs, observers are getting a partial sneak peak at the issues that could shape next year’s legislative session.

Social issues were largely on the back burner in 2013, but could make a comeback in 2014. Republican Rep. Kathleen Souza of Manchester is filing two bills on abortion, and Democratic Rep. Renny Cushing of Hampton is filing a bill to abolish the death penalty.

Rep. Donald Wright, a Moultonboro Republican, is filing a couple of bills on medical marijuana, including one allowing patients to grow their own cannabis. The home-grow option was dumped from this year’s medical-marijuana law at the insistence of Gov. Maggie Hassan.

There’s a request that Congress call a constitutional convention to address campaign finance reform (via Rep. Tim Smith, Democrat of Manchester) and a request that Congress investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya (from Republican Rep. J.R. Hoell of Dunbarton).

And Republican Rep. George Lambert of Litchfield, who’s said he’s exploring a run for governor in 2014, is filing, among other bills, legislation to repeal “sugar packet requirements.” (State law requires restaurants to provide sugar only in individually sealed packets or “in covered containers from which sugar is poured through a hole not more than three-eighths of an inch in diameter.”)

House members can file bill requests through the end of this week, and senators can file proposed bills Sept. 30 to Oct. 25.

Innis gearing up

Dan Innis appears to be moving closer to a run for Congress in the 1st District.

Innis, a Portsmouth Republican, is stepping down as dean of the University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, he announced last week.

The move, effective Nov. 1, could help clear his plate ahead of a run against Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in 2014.

First, though, would come the Republican primary. Former congressman and Manchester mayor Frank Guinta has indicated he’s interested in the race, and state Rep. Pam Tucker of Greenland has said she might run if Guinta doesn’t.

And Guinta may be getting some outside help – WMUR’s James Pindell reported Friday that Wisconsin congressman and 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan will be visiting the state next month to help Guinta, a former member of Ryan’s House Budget Committee.

Hassan vs. Ayotte?

A poll out last week by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Hassan and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen leading potential GOP opponents in 2014 match-ups.

But enough about the elections that are merely a year or so away. What about 2016?

The poll asked about a potential run by Hassan, a Democrat, for the U.S. Senate in 2016 against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

Apparently, it would be close: 45 percent for Ayotte, 44 percent for Hassan and 11 percent undecided, with a 3 percent margin of error.

Not so fast

An energy efficiency bill backed by Shaheen and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is going nowhere fast.

The bill came to the Senate floor last week. But it got bogged down in proposed amendments, notably one from Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter targeting Obamacare.

“I really do believe this is a seminal moment in the sense that if we cannot even do a bipartisan bill like this on energy efficiency that came out of the committee with a 19-to-3 vote, what can we do?” Portman implored Wednesday on the Senate floor.

By Thursday evening, the vote had been put off.

“I want everyone in New Hampshire who is frustrated by gridlock and dysfunction in Washington to know that I share their frustrations,” Shaheen said in a statement. “But I don’t plan on giving up and will continue to work to pass this bill.”

Oops

Republican Jim Rubens kicked off his campaign for the U.S. Senate Wednesday with a press conference where he introduced key staff, including “Joe Basbas.”

That’d be James Basbas, who’s running the campaign and was director of online communications for John Stephen’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010.

2016 watch

Two Democrats who may be eyeing a run for president in 2016 are coming to New Hampshire.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will be the keynote speaker Nov. 16 at the state Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner.

O’Malley, who’s set to leave office after the 2014 election, was last spotted in the state 11 months ago, stumping for Hassan and President Obama ahead of the 2012 election.

Former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean will be at St. Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics tomorrow night to speak about health care reform.

Dean hasn’t exactly dampened rumors about a second run, recently telling Politico, “The truth is I’m not ready to get into all of that yet.”

He also said he’s backing Hillary Clinton, so who knows?

News of record

∎ Happy birthday to Frank Guinta, who turns 43 on Thursday.

∎ With Democrat Mary Heath’s victory in a special election last week in Manchester Ward 7, the balance of power in the House stands at 219 Democrats and 179 Republicans.

∎ Hassan has nominated William Wrenn for another four-year term as commissioner of the Department of Corrections, which would keep him on the job well into 2017. He must be confirmed by the Executive Council, which last week confirmed Van McLeod for another term as commissioner of the Department of Cultural Resources.

∎ The Merrimack County Democrats will hold a “Harvest Supper” fundraiser Saturday at Carter Hill Orchard in Concord. Among the announced participants: U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen, House Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern and Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

Legacy Comments1

how is that "Focus like a Laser on Jobs " democrat rule working for ya?

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