ATLANTA – Turns out the rush for the Augusta Council to pass an ordinance on drones before the General Assembly enacted its own bill was for nothing after Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the legislature’s bill Tuesday.
Lawmakers on a special committee, including Rep. Brian Prince, D-Augusta, spent last summer studying issues surrounding the privacy and safety of the pilotless airplanes. They crafted a bill, which included a provision that it would pre-empt all local ordinances that were not in place before the bill passed the legislature.
Prince said he stayed in close contact with Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis while the legislature and council were considering their separate measures.
“We communicated by text and by phone a lot. … He and I were communicating just to make sure it came in under the wire,” Prince said.
The council was concerned about ensuring the Masters Tournament wasn’t disrupted by drone overflights, including the safety of fans and the integrity of the television broadcast.
The veto of the statewide drone bill was one of 16 Deal issued Tuesday, including two controversial gun bills and the so-called religious-liberty bill.
Deal said he wants to wait to see what rules the Federal Aviation Administration comes up with before enacting additional restrictions.
“In addition, I would urge local governments to refrain from enacting ordinances that would regulate drone activity until the FAA has acted as well. In the interim, I plan by executive order, to establish a commission to propose state-level guidelines until the new FAA regulations are released,” he wrote in his veto message.
Georgia has a large aircraft industry, and a growing division of it is involved in the research and building of drones.
“Such layers of potentially inconsistent rules could create a climate contrary to what the business community, the science and technology community, and legislative leaders sought to create by drafting this legislation,” the governor warned.