Brownley on drones, officer-involved shootings 

A drone can be used for many things, as recent events have proven: filming an action sequence for a movie, surveying land for conservation, even annoying firefighters attempting to quell wildfires, as has been the case at least 18 times in the past year.

Congresswoman Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, has seemingly had enough of the unmanned aerial vehicles buzzing active fire scenes. When the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration programs on Monday, July 11, Brownley’s provision to increase penalties for drone operators who “recklessly interfere with wildfire fighting operations” passed with it.

Julia Bownley

Julia Bownley

The provision raises the current penalty of interfering with emergency response activities, including wildfire suppression, from a maximum of $1,100 to $20,000 for violations. 

According to the U.S. Forest Service, 10 of the 18 times drones have interrupted firefighting efforts in the last year have resulted in delayed operations, and twice forced aerial firefighters to take evasive maneuvers. 

“I am pleased that the House passed my provision that will help to address the serious threat that reckless UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] operations pose to wildfire firefighting efforts,” said Brownley. “Not only do UAS operations near wildfires put the lives of our aerial firefighters at risk, but any delay to contain wildfires endangers the lives of those on the ground and leads to further damage to property and homes.”

On July 3, the Pine Fire burning in the Sespe wilderness north of Ojai became the scene of an illegal incursion by a drone that flew close to firefighting helicopters. The drone’s operator was located and made to ground the vehicle. 

Brownley’s provision will now go with the legislation to the Senate, where it will need to pass before heading to President Barack Obama’s desk for signature.

Additionally, in light of recent events, specifically the deaths of two black men at the hands of law enforcement in Louisiana and Minnesota and the deaths of five police officers in Dallas, Brownley released a statement. 

“I mourn the loss of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. I mourn the loss of the five police officers killed in Dallas yesterday, and pray for a swift recovery of those who were wounded. We must come together as a nation, in the spirit of compassion and grace, to find solutions that will keep our communities and our families safe.”

Jackson’s same-sex marriage language bill signed into law

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Tuesday, July 5, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson’s bill replacing the words “husband” and “wife” with “spouse” when referring to married couples in California law in an effort to recognize gender equality.

Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, received overwhelming bipartisan support for the bill when it was introduced in February, with only one vote against across both the Assembly and Senate. 

Hannah Beth Jackson

Hannah Beth Jackson

“By removing outdated language from the state code, the law will now accurately reflect the rights of same-sex couples in California and the fact that marriage equality is now the law of the land,” said Jackson. “This helps ensure the equal and fair treatment of all same-sex couples in California.”

In 2013, same-sex marriages resumed in California, and in 2014 state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill that updated the state’s Family Code to remove references to marriage being between a “man and a woman,” thus making it gender-neutral as well. 

Jackson’s bill will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. 

Also in July, Jackson praised Brown for signing into law restrictive gun control measures, though he vetoed a bill authored by Jackson requiring gun owners to report theft or loss of their guns within five days.