A revised bill to restrict drone flights in county parks by limiting areas where they can be used was filed late Tuesday to overcome flaws that led to County Executive Steve Bellone's veto of the original measure late last month.
The compromise proposal, forged by administration aides and legislative sponsors Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and William Spencer (D-Centerport) -- is broader and imposes steeper fines than the earlier version. It uses public safety, not privacy, as the legal basis for the law to make it more defensible in court.
Bellone called the original measure unconstitutional because of a "fundamental flaw": No one has a right to privacy in county parks, and it would improperly limit the public's right to take photos from drones. However, Bellone in his veto said limiting drones to protect public safety was a legal way to block "unreasonable" drone use.
Aides to the county executive say he will authorize a certificate of necessity to permit an immediate vote on the measure at Wednesday's county legislature meeting in Hauppauge without going through legislative committee. The original version of the legislation passed in a bipartisan 15-2 vote last month. Officials said they expect easy passage Wednesday night.
"Legislators have concerns about this new technology and how it's applied where county residents congregate," Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said. "I think this represents a very responsible path forward."
Neither Muratore nor Spencer returned calls for comment Tuesday night.
Under the new proposal, anyone who wants to operate an unmanned aerial device in a county park must obtain a permit and limit flights to park sites to be designated by the Parks Department by May 1. Drone users also would be required to fly them only within their line of sight.
The proposal empowers the county parks department to issue permits and regulations and set permit fees to govern drone use after holding two public hearings -- one in Hauppauge, the other in Riverhead -- by Feb. 1 for public input on rules and potential sites that might be appropriate.
The measure carries a civil penalty of $250 to $500 per violation. In addition, anyone who launches, lands or operates a drone in violation of the law would be subject to criminal fines of up to $5,000 or up to a year in jail.
The news media and those using drones for county work would be exempt.
The earlier version of the bill would have only barred flights of unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with a cameras over all county parks and facilities without authorization of the public works and parks commissioners. The measure also would have banned flights over county beaches from May 15 to Sept. 15 each year in an effort to protect beachgoers' privacy.