It’s a classic case of unintended consequences. A Republican lawmaker in North Dakota put forth legislation meant to prevent law enforcement officials from using unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct surveillance on private property without a warrant. It was transformed by fellow lawmakers into a bill allowing the police to mount Tasers, pepper spray, sound cannons and other “less-than-lethal” weapons on flying drones.
The legislation, House Bill 1328, was passed and signed into law earlier this year, but got little attention until this week, when a Daily Beast report pointed out the implications of the legislation: Law enforcement officers many miles away from suspects could have the authority to stun or otherwise incapacitate them.
To be clear, the fact that something like this is technically legal doesn’t mean that state and local police departments will necessarily embrace the practice of remotely subduing suspects. Police officers are generally subject to local and departmental rules that can substantially limit what tactics are allowed.
The original version of the bill included language that would have barred law enforcement from mounting weapons of any kind on a drone: “A state agency may not authorize the use of, including granting a permit to use, an unmanned aircraft armed with any lethal or nonlethal weapons, including firearms, pepper spray, bean bag guns, mace, and sound-based weapons,” it said.
Supporters of the state’s police union introduced an amendment to the bill that would allow less-than-lethal weapons to be mounted on drones, according to the Daily Beast’s Justin Glawe. The amended bill was ultimately passed and signed into law.
State Rep. Rick Becker this spring voiced his dismay at the changes to the bill in a public hearing, saying, “In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponized. Period.”
Drones have, of course, been weaponized for years — the strikes just haven’t been in the U.S. If North Dakota is taking the lead, however, that might be about to change.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times
- Trump Turns a Covetous Eye Toward Evangelical Voters
- Are Immigrants Really Taking American Jobs?
- Why the New Debt Ceiling Deadline Could Be Crucial
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated this week that President Trump has now signed legislation that will add a total of $4.7 trillion to the national debt between 2017 and 2029. Tax cuts and spending increases account for similar portions of the projected increase, though if the individual tax cuts in the 2017 Republican overhaul are extended beyond their current expiration date at the end of 2025, they would add another $1 trillion in debt through 2029.
Are interest rates destined to move higher, increasing the cost of private and public debt? While many experts believe that higher rates are all but inevitable, historian Paul Schmelzing argues that today’s low-interest environment is consistent with a long-term trend stretching back 600 years.
The chart “shows a clear historical downtrend, with rates falling about 1% every 60 years to near zero today,” says Bloomberg’s Aaron Brown. “Rates do tend to revert to a mean, but that mean seems to be declining.”
Lawmakers are considering three separate bills that are intended to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Here’s an overview of the proposals, from a series of charts produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation this week. An interesting detail highlighted in another chart: 88% of voters – including 92% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans – want to give the government the power to negotiate prices with drug companies.
From Gallup: “A record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost, up from 19% a year ago and the highest in Gallup's trend. Another 8% said they or a family member put off treatment for a less serious condition, bringing the total percentage of households delaying care due to costs to 33%, tying the high from 2014.”