Tag Archives: drones

Eyes in the sky: Drone growth elevates fun, raises privacy concerns

As many as a million kids and kids-at-heart had their wishes take flight when they unwrapped a drone during the holidays.

Consumer technology took a turn in 2015 and propelled domestic drones to new heights in popularity in late 2015 and early 2016.

But policymakers and privacy advocates see gray areas as more and more pilots send their small unmanned aircraft into blue skies.

More drone pilots than planes

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta announced in mid-January that there were more registered drone operators than registered planes in the United States. The FAA reports 320,000 registered manned aircraft and more than 325,000 registered drone owners.

The number of drones in the United States likely is higher — because operators might own more than one small unmanned aircraft and other operators might not be registered, according to Huerta.

The FAA launched a Web-based drone registration campaign just before Christmas, anticipating drone sales to skyrocket to a million during the holidays. The agency requires registration by operators of drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds, if they plan to fly outdoors for hobby or recreation. Registered drone operators receive a number that must be affixed to their aircraft.

An FAA exemption program exists for operators of drones for commercial activities — including bridge inspections, movie and television filming, aerial photography, mapping and surveying work, pipeline inspections and first-responder investigation and surveillance activity.

“The future is really here with drones,” said recreational pilot Kevin Fontaine of Green Bay. “They can be adapted for all kinds of fun and games and also used in all kinds of work. I first heard of them from a photographer friend. He was using a drone outfitted with a camera to make a zombie movie.”

The zombie flick, Horror in Mount Horeb, hasn’t reached a movie-going audience, but many films and TV programs featuring scenes filmed using drones have shown up on large and small screens.

“Drones have been instrumental in capturing some of the most iconic cinematography in recent memory,” said Randy Scott Slavin, founder and director of the New York City Drone Film Festival. 

“Drones are the most important cinematic tool since the tripod,” said Slavin, who referenced drone footage for the Oscar-winning opening sequence of Skyfall, the infamous Hamptons party scene in The Wolf of Wall Street and the many landscape images in the Netflix series Narcos.

This year’s festival — the first such event dedicated to movies filmed using drones — is March 4–6. The final day features “Day of Drones,” with screenings and demonstrations by drone builders and pilots. One activity, “Drone Vision,” provides an opportunity for the curious to strap on a pair of goggles to see what a drone camera sees as it zips around New York City’s Liberty State Park.

Fontaine said he’d like to refine his drone flying skills to take aerial landscape photographs this spring.

“I’m still learning how to use it and there’s a lot of potential,” he said. “But for now, it’s a toy.”

In the toy chest

Drones can be purchased for less than $50 and more than $500, but most cost $120–$200. They’re wowing consumers and retailers at toy fairs and trade shows.

At 2016 toy fairs, Odyssey Toys is showcasing the Pocket Drone, a collapsing video drone that’s about the size of an iPhone 6 — light enough and small enough to fit into a pocket. The built-in high-definition camera captures images to a 4GB SD card and the drone, which can be operated indoors or outdoors, features LEDs for night flying.

Another “wow” at fairs is a toy built for pilots as young as 10 — Spin Master’s Air Hogs Connect: Mission Drone, which combines drone-flying and smartphone gaming.

“It will be interesting to watch what happens as consumer unmanned aerial vehicle technology continues to evolve,” said Phil Solis, research director at ABI Research. The company monitors the tech market and predicts that consumer drone shipments will exceed 90 million units and generate $4.6 billion in revenues by 2025.

It also will be interesting to watch what happens with the regulation of drones as consumer, commercial and government use prompts concerns about criminal applications and security breaches — and raising questions about privacy rights. 

Rules and regulations

In December, the Center for Democracy and Technology proposed a set of voluntary best practices for drone operators, intending to protect privacy rights and support the industry.

The nonprofit, which advocates civil liberties and a free Internet, recommended:

• Commercial drone operators establish a privacy policy that describes the purposes for which the drone is used and the types of data the drone collects.

• Private drone operators should not intentionally use a drone to enter private property without the landowner’s consent.

• Private drone operators should not use drones to collect personal data without consent where an individual has an expectation of privacy; for persistent monitoring of individuals; or for employment, credit or health-care eligibility.

• Private drone operators should try to avoid collecting, retaining or disclosing unnecessary personal data without consent. When possible, unnecessary data should be destroyed or de-identified.

• Commercial drone operators should take basic steps to secure the personal data they collect.

Federal guidelines established by Congress require that recreational drone operators keep unmanned aircraft in their sight and below 400 feet, stay clear of manned aircraft, remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property, avoid flying and using drugs or alcohol, and avoid photographing people in areas where there is an expectation of privacy.

Drone pilots also must respect the no-fly zones established by the FAA and, increasingly, under state and local law.

A focus this legislative season in Wisconsin and elsewhere was on drone use near prisons. 

Drones were deployed to deliver contraband — drugs, pornography, cellphones and weapons — to prisons in Maryland, Ohio and Oklahoma in 2015. In Wisconsin, a pilot lost contact with a drone that landed on the grounds of the Waupun Correctional Institution.

The incidents prompted lawmakers to take up bills creating no-fly zones.

Simple steps to directing with a drone

Randy Scott Slavin, founder and director of the New York City Drone Film Festival, offers five steps to movie-making with a small unmanned aircraft:

1. Read. Read the operating manual for the drone and read federal regulations and any local and state rules on piloting a drone.

2. Practice. Drones are unique and have different flight characteristics. The only way to improve as a pilot is to practice.

3. Shoot. Slavin says “shoot constantly” with drone cameras.

4. Imagine. Drones put cameras in new places and can use cameras in new ways to re-invent how stories are told on film.

5. Share. Edit and share footage online and at festivals. It’s too late to enter the 2016 New York festival — nycdronefilmfestival.com — but not too late to prepare for 2017.

— Lisa Neff

Reach Lisa Neff at lmneff@www.wisconsingazette.com.

Wisconsin Assembly votes to prohibit drones over prisons

The Wisconsin Assembly began a push on Feb. 18 to get tougher on rogue drone use, passing a bill that would prohibit flying the machines over prisons and another that would create penalties for using them in crimes.

The bills follow a series of incidents across the country in which smugglers flew drugs, pornography or other contraband over prison walls. Wisconsin has not dealt with drone smuggling, but legislators say they want to be proactive.

The first bill would impose a $5,000 fine for flying a drone over a state correctional institution.

The bill’s authors removed a provision that would have allowed municipalities to establish additional no-fly zones for drones. The provision would have allowed municipalities to impose fines up to $2,500.

Drone operators and technology advocates testified at the hearing that it would create a patchwork of regulations, limit opportunities for commercial drone operators and clash with federal rules.

The second bill would increase penalties someone used a drone in a crime. People who used a drone to commit a less-serious misdemeanor would face up to $10,000 in fines and up to a year in jail. If it is a more serious misdemeanor, the status of the crime would change to a felony, with a maximum penalty of $10,000 in fines and up to two years in prison.

Defendants who use a drone to commit a felony would see their fines increase by $5,000 and face up to an additional five years in prison.

The Assembly passed both bills on voice votes this week, sending them to the Senate.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires drone operators to register with the agency and has been developing other regulations for drones, or unmanned aircraft systems. Almost 300,000 drone owners registered in the first month since Dec. 21, when the requirement began.

Local and state lawmakers have stepped in with their own regulations across the country, with some criticizing the FAA for being too lax. About 45 states considered restrictions on unmanned aircraft systems in 2015, according to the FAA.

The FAA warns it could lead to a “patchwork quilt” of regulations and stipulates that local and state regulations must fit with federal rules. 

Wisconsin editorial roundup: on college costs, drone bans and union declines

Higher ed proposals will help, but much more is needed to hold down college cost

Wisconsin State Journal, Jan. 31

A key Assembly committee just endorsed a package of modest yet worthy bills to make college more affordable.

The full Legislature should approve them, understanding much more must be done so students aren’t saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

The bills, which cleared the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities last week, would give a larger tax break to thousands of people paying back student loans. Lifting a $2,500 cap on a tax deduction for borrowers won’t save them a lot, but it will save some.

The bills also would provide more financial help to technical college students, including “emergency grants” for unexpected expenses, such as car repairs. That could prevent some students from quitting classes when trouble strikes.

The bills will connect more students to internships for real-life experience.

One of the most important measures the committee advanced would require colleges to provide students with better information about the debt they’re taking on. A financial reality check should persuade more students to streamline their course loads or work more hours at part-time jobs to borrow less.

Good counseling is a must, too, so fewer students go down academic paths only to find out — after considerable time and expense — it’s not for them.

Republicans have supported the bills, as do UW and technical college officials. Democrats voted against them at committee, saying the legislation didn’t go far enough. We get the point. But the bills represent progress. They deserve bipartisan support.

Gov. Scott Walker’s tuition freeze, in place since 2013, has saved students a lot of money. But the freeze was coupled in the latest state budget with a $250 million cut in state aid to UW System schools.

Wisconsin is one of the few states reducing aid to higher education, which isn’t a path to prosperity. Wisconsin needs to invest in its colleges to compete in a global economy and secure more good-paying jobs.

Even with the governor’s tuition freeze, the cost of higher education is a much heavier load than it used to be. At UW-Madison, for example, students pay twice as much today for tuition, housing and related expenses — nearly $25,000 — than their peers did three decades ago, when adjusted for inflation.

And the erosion of state aid has forced UW to draw down its reserves. That’s not all bad, since they were high. But our universities need some reserves for stability, just like a private company.

The next state budget should prioritize younger generations, rather than handing out still more tax cuts.

Democrats have prioritized legislation allowing students to refinance their education loans. That’s a needed change Republicans should embrace.

More private donations for tuition are helping pay for college. And schools such as Madison Area Technical College are striving to make two years of instruction free for lower-income students.

But bigger ideas are needed. Leaders should explore a “pay it forward” model where students get free college, then pay a percentage of their salaries after graduation to offset the cost.

Universities must aggressively pursue technology to deliver instruction more efficiently.

The current system of higher and higher cost for young people can’t continue.

Decline of unions isn’t good news for Wisconsin

The Capital Times, Jan. 30

There undoubtedly was some high-fiving among Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators and their corporate campaign contributors over the news that union membership has plummeted in Wisconsin over the past two years and is now far below the national average.

That may be good news for plutocrats, but it’s terrible news for working people and Wisconsin’s middle class.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that just 8.3 percent of workers in the state now belong to a union, which is down from 11.7 percent in 2014. Nationwide roughly 11.1 percent of working people belong to an organized labor union.

The big drop in union membership — estimated to be roughly 83,000 workers in little more than year — helps explain why Wisconsin’s economic recovery continues to trail the rest of the country. The figures are even more stark when compared to 2010, the year Scott Walker was first elected governor. More than 14 percent of Wisconsin workers belonged to unions then.

Unions may not be the be-all and end-all, but they’ve historically strengthened the country’s middle class, winning wage hikes and benefits for workers so they could support their families and share in the nation’s wealth, and making sure employers provided safe and healthy workplaces. Unions never did represent a majority of American workers, but they provided the benchmarks that nonunion employers used to keep their workers happy so they wouldn’t be tempted to form unions themselves.

It’s not coincidental that the biggest gains in the middle class occurred during the heyday of unions. And it’s also not coincidental that the middle class has suffered in recent years as union membership has eroded. The result has been an alarming increase in the gap between the rich and poor.

That’s been a particular problem here in Wisconsin. A Pew Charitable Trust report from last March showed Wisconsin with the largest decline among the 50 states in the number of middle class families. In 2000, 54.6 percent of Wisconsin families fell into the category of middle class, but that was down to 48.9 percent in 2013. The real median household income in our state had fallen 14.7 percent during that time.

While the drop in union membership has coincided with lower wages and fewer benefits, the upper classes have done well.

So we shouldn’t be happy that unions have taken big hits as a result of the Republicans’ attacks on public employees and teachers and the enactment of a right-to-work law, which hampers private unions.

No, we should be sad for the economic health of Wisconsin and worried about its future.

Regulate drones, but don’t ban them

The Journal Times of Racine, Jan. 30

“Star Wars” might be big at the box office, but drone wars are cropping up all over the country, including Wisconsin.

The latest initiative to drive the electronic beasts from the sky comes from Madison where Republican legislators are pushing a bill to fine people who fly a drone over a state correctional institution $5,000.

According to news reports the legislation follows a series of cases in which smugglers flew drugs, pornography and other contraband over prison walls. Last summer, according to an Associated Press report, a drone dropped a package of marijuana, heroin and tobacco into a prison yard in Ohio, triggering a fight among inmates. Other such instances have cropped up in Oklahoma, Georgia, Maryland and South Carolina.

We have previously called for regulations of drones, so we were all ready to jump on the bandwagon and back the legislative effort headed by state Sen. Richard Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, to stop this potential airborne crime wave.

Then we read a story that in Denver legislators rejected an ordinance to curb private drone use —for the third straight time.

It even rejected a watered-down version that would have banned only drones used to deliver contraband to prisons after opponents pointed out that prison contraband delivery is already a crime by any means.

“It’s really not a necessary bill,” said Vic Moss, owner of a suburban Denver photography business and a drone enthusiast, according to an AP report.

We would suspect that Wisconsin has similar prohibitions on sending contraband into a prison.

Disturbing, as well, is a provision in Gudex’s proposed legislation that would allow local municipalities and counties to establish areas where drones cannot be flown and to set fines of up to $2,500 for violations. We have no idea where that would go.

California bans paparazzi from using drones on private land, Arkansas bans drone voyeurism and News Hampshire bans their use for hunting, trapping and fishing.

We have previously endorsed the need for regulation of drones in order to make sure our skies are safe for air travel.

But we have also suggested that the current Federal Aviation Administration regulations that prohibit drone flights within five miles of an airport are too stringent. That rule essentially makes the entire city of Racine a no-fly zone.

Moreover, there are potentially many good uses for drones — from the delivery system posed by Amazon or their use in spotting forest fires to use by insurance companies in checking damage to roofs or other property _ and even to detecting potato diseases by flying them over fields to find stressed out plants. And, of course, hobbyists love them.

While air safety is important for commercial and private planes and there are other legitimate concerns for things like privacy and individual rights, the stampede of proposed regulations and bans should slow down until reasonable plans can be made.

Drones are not inherently evil and they need a little air space.

Made available via The AP.

Peace activists march to protest drones

Joy First has been arrested about 35 times.

“I think that many,” says the Mount Horeb resident, who has been active in the peace movement since about 2002 and the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

And she’s willing to risk arrest again in act of civil resistance at Volk Field at Camp Douglas in Wisconsin. Volk is the site of the Tactical Unmanned Aerial System facility, a $4.5-million operation housing the RQ-7B Shadow Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and a platoon of operators, according to base information.

Aug. 18–25, First plans to join other peace activists in a 90-mile march from the Dane County jail in Madison to Volk. The activists plan to walk about 12–16 miles a day and spend their nights at churches, homes or campsites. 

On the eve of the march, a public assembly will be held at Edgewood College in Madison.

The organizing groups are Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence and the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars.

For more than three years, the coalition has been holding monthly vigils at the gates to Volk. The first vigil was held in December 2011.

The Shadow drones at Volk are not armed but, First said, “They are part of the bigger picture of U.S. warfare. Without the Shadow, they wouldn’t be able to use the Predator.”

The RQ-7 Shadow UAV is equipped with a camera and used for reconnaissance and surveillance; the Predator is a larger aircraft with weaponry.

The Shadow is being used by ground troops to support convoy operations, field artillery and troops in contact with enemy forces, according to the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs.

In August 2010, the Wisconsin National Guard at Volk launched the first test of the Shadow, which can reach heights of 15,000 feet and has a range of about 125 kilometers.

In December 2013, military leaders gathered with elected officials for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Volk to celebrate the construction of the unmanned aircraft facility. The Shadow, the speakers emphasized, would be deployed to help save the lives of U.S. servicemembers.

Activists decided to begin the August march at the jail to make a connection between the violence overseas and the violence committed by militarized U.S. police forces. At a short program at the jail at 10 a.m. on Aug. 18, the marchers will hear from representatives of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We’re really trying to draw the connection by walking from the jail to the field that what the U.S. military is doing to brown people on the other side of the world is connected to what the police are doing to black people in this country,” said First. 

She added, “People are coming from all over the country to participate in this walk. And it really does feel like a family reunion.”

“These drones, we believe, are illegal and criminal,” said First.

“Most of the people who go are involved in a lot of different anti-war activity,” First said. The protesters assemble at about 3:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month.

Occasionally the protesters go beyond the gates. Demonstrators risked arrest to walk on the base with a letter to the commander and risked arrest again to deliver a call to prosecute for war crimes.

“We are handcuffed and arrested. They take us to the station 20 miles away,” she said. “We get bench trials, where we’ve been found guilty.”

She said charges often get downgraded from a misdemeanor to an ordinance violation.

First has participated in other anti-war actions, including at the White House and Pentagon, and she plans to attend another demonstration in Washington, D.C., in September.

First arrived at anti-war activism in her 50s. “This is something that I just feel I’m called to do. I think about my grandchildren and I have to do this.”

She has six grandchildren between the ages of 4 and 16 and she’s spoken with all of them about war and peace.

“We’ve talked about why I’m doing this and why it’s important,” she said. “We’ve talked about war and people dying.”

Wisconsinites float Lanterns for Peace

August brings peace actions around the world. The tradition, in part, commemorates the anniversary of America’s atomic bombings of Japan.

This year marked the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki, on Aug. 9, 1945. The attacks by the United States hastened an end to World War II, with Japan’s surrender days later.

About 200,000 people died in the two blasts.

Each year, Japan’s government marks the anniversaries with a memorial at Budokan hall in Tokyo.

This year in Japan, memorials also were held in peace parks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as concerts, film screenings, art exhibits and seminars.

Memorials also were held across the country, including in Wisconsin, where Lanterns for Peace ceremonies took place at Governor Dodge State Park near Dodgeville on Aug. 2, Tenney Park in Madison on Aug. 6 and Washington Park in Milwaukee on Aug. 8.

Peace activists to march in Wisconsin

Peace activists, including those with the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, will march about 90 miles — from the Dane County jail to Volk Field in Douglas — to protest the military’s deployment of drones.

The Wisconsin Air National Guard is headquartered at Volk. Pilots on the base are trained to remotely operate drones used for reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting.

The march is set to take place Aug. 18–25, with walkers traveling about 12–16 miles a day.

A vigil is planned at the gates of Volk Field on Aug. 25.

For more information, email Joy First at

In other community news …

• PEACE IN THE PARK: Peace Action’s annual Lanterns for Peace and Peace Benefit Concert takes place on Aug. 8 in Milwaukee’s Washington Park. For more, check Annual Lanterns for Peace on Facebook.

• SOCIAL JUSTICE SPEAKER: The First Unitarian Society of Madison hosts national Interfaith Worker Justice executive director Ruby Lopez for a forum on Aug. 4. For more, go to www.fusmadison.org.

• LAKE MICHIGAN MONIES: The Fund for Lake Michigan recently awarded $1.9 million in grants to improve Lake Michigan beaches and natural areas. Plans include the restoration of Cat Island in Green Bay and the revitalization of Simmons Beach in Kenosha. A legal settlement over the construction of the coal-fired Oak Creek power plant requires We Energies, Madison Gas and Electric and WPPI Energy to contribute $4 million annually to the fund. For more, go to www.fundforlakemichigan.org.

• FARMRAISER FUN: Milwaukee-based Victory Garden Initiative holds a FarmRaiser at 4 p.m. on Sept. 19 at Concordia Gardens on Milwaukee’s near west side. The event features music and local restaurants offering takes on VGI fresh produce. For more, go to victorygardeninitiative.org.

• PLANET HOLLYWOOD: The Sierra Club formed an arts and entertainment council to raise awareness and money for the nonprofit’s mission to “explore, enjoy and protect the planet.” “The Sierra Club is about people. Millions of people from all walks of life banding together to protect our planet and our democracy,” said council member Susan Sarandon in a statement. For more, go to sierraclub.org.

• TO D.C. FOR THE DOGS, AND MORE: Animal rights advocates gather outside Washington, D.C. July 30–Aug. 2 for a national conference. Organizers plan a series of lectures, workshops, strategy sessions and a marketplace. For more, go to arconference.org.

Send community news to

Wisconsin peace activist jailed for trespassing

A Juneau County jury on April 1 found longtime peace activist Bonnie Block guilty of trespassing.

The Madison resident was sentenced to pay a $232 fine or spend five days in the county jail. Trespassing in Wisconsin is not a criminal offense.

Block told the Juneau County court, “I can’t in good conscience pay the fine. It would be giving consent to the outcome of a legal process I believe was unfair and which sets dangerous precedents for those of us engaged in nonviolent civil resistance and seeking justice for victims of US drone warfare.”

She was then sentenced to five days in jail and was told to report to the county justice center after lunch with her husband and son.

According to a news release from the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, Block was involved in an action on May 17, 2014, that also involved the Rev. Jim Murphy. The two took a bus tour of Volk Field, part of the base’s public open house. As they left the bus at the National Guard Museum, they handed out a leaflet with four questions about drones to other passengers on the bus. They were arrested and charged with trespass.

Block opted for a Jury trial because she believed her constitutional right of free speech was violated as was her conscientious objection to drone warfare. 

Block, who represented herself at the jury trial, was blocked under a pretrial ruling from talking about international law, the U.S. Constitution, morals and ethics.

In her closing statement, she said she is committed to nonviolence . 

The jury deliberated 30 minutes before returning with the guilty verdict. 

Block is part of the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, which holds monthly vigils outside the gates of the Wisconsin Air National Guard Base. Since 2009, Volk Field has been training operators of RQ-7 Shadow drones.  

The following is the statement Bonnie Block delivered at her sentencing, as provided by the coalition:

Your Honor, I asked for a jury trial in this matter so I could explain to the citizens of Juneau County my moral, constitutional, and legal reasons for opposing the drone training via handing out a leaflet at the Volk Field Open House. I also wanted to point out the absurdity of being arrested for trespassing at an event to which the public had been invited. 

However, the Court’s pretrial orders based on the District Attorney’s 25 point Motion in Limine precluded me from explaining this to the jury because the pre-trial orders prohibited any mention to the Jury of the very issues that I believe constitute a defense for my nonviolent action. 

These prohibitions also made it impossible for me to testify on my own behalf because I couldn’t honor the oath “to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” And to top it off, there was the unilateral refusal of Volk Field Commander Romauld to honor my third party subpoena to testify so he could explain the military rules and rationale that he considers the justification for my arrest. It puts the military brass above the law and I object. 

For these reasons, I can’t in good conscience pay the fine. It would be giving consent to the outcome of a legal process I believe was unfair and which sets dangerous precedents for those of us engaged in nonviolent civil resistance and seeking justice for victims of US drone warfare. So I’ll “do the time instead of paying the fine.”

Hundreds of new laws take effect in states

Early July is about more than fireworks, cookouts and long weekends. It’s also about hundreds of new laws in the states.

Around the nation, July 1 marked the start of new fiscal years and the date recently passed legislation goes into effect, although states often mark their independence by enacting new regulations on their own calendars.

The laws and effective dates vary somewhat from state to state, but an overview of legislation set to hit the books on July 1 shows that state lawmakers took positions on the following five topics of national debate:

• GUNS: State legislatures across the U.S. discussed gun laws in the wake of mass shootings that shocked the nation in 2012. Most efforts to pass restrictions faded amid fierce opposition. Only a handful of states enacted new limits, some of which went into effect on July 1. Among them Colorado is notable for requiring background checks for private and online gun sales and outlawing high-capacity ammunition magazines. At least 18 states, however, have gone the other way and loosened gun laws. Kansas laws set to take effect will allow schools to arm employees with concealed handguns and ensure that weapons can be carried into more public buildings.

• TECH: Dozens of states examined technology laws. Recently passed legislation in eight states will prevent businesses from demanding passwords to social media sites as a condition of employment. The law in Washington state also stops employers from compelling workers to add managers as “friends” so their profile can be viewed. Four states updated tech laws to allow drivers to show proof of car insurance on an electronic device, such as a smartphone.

• CARS: A handful of states have restricted cellphone use while driving. Starting on July 1 in Hawaii and West Virginia motorists must put down hand-held devices. Meanwhile, in South Dakota beginning drivers face similar restrictions. Utah also enacted limits for newbies with a law that has already taken effect. A few states have banned texting while driving. Other state laws affecting drivers will make it illegal to smoke in a car with a child, raise highway speed limits, crackdown on drunken drivers and raise gas taxes.

• ABORTION: Nationally, state lawmakers proposed more than 300 bills that would have restricted abortions, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. At least 13 state legislatures passed new limits, though two are waiting for governors to sign off. Notably, a bill that would have closed almost every abortion clinic in Texas was dramatically defeated by a Democratic filibuster and a restless crowd in late June. The Texas governor, however, ordered another special legislative session to push the bill through. North Dakota has passed the nation’s strictest abortion law, which takes effect in August, banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

• DRONES: An Idaho law that took effect this week forbids anyone from using an unmanned aircraft for spying on another. Virginia has passed a ban preventing authorities from using drones for the next two years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Four other states approved anti-drone regulations, though legislation aimed at law enforcement in Texas isn’t effective until fall.

Not all of the measures taking effect were matters dominating national political discussion. The following five examples of recently approved legislation show state-level updates can cover a variety of topics:

• SEXIST LANGUAGE: Washington lawmakers continued their multiyear effort to make the state’s laws and rules gender neutral. The final measure approved by the Legislature this year has terms like “ombuds” and “security guards” replace “ombudsman” and “watchmen.”

• JACKPOT: Wyoming residents might soon consider 7, 1 and 13 as lucky numbers. A Cowboy State law that kicked in on July 1 calls for the state to establish a lottery for the first time, leaving a dwindling list of only a handful of states without such a prize drawing.

• ELECTION DAY DRINKING: Kentucky has lifted a ban on election day drinking. It was one of the last states with Prohibition-era restrictions on the sale of alcohol while polls are open.

• EDIBLE LANDSCAPING: Maine lawmakers this session have directed officials to plant edible landscaping, such as fruit trees or berry shrubs, around the Statehouse.

• TANNING: Dozens of states this year considered keeping minors out of tanning beds. New Jersey and Nevada restrictions kicked in July 1, and an Oregon limit takes effect in January. The home of MTV’s reality series “Jersey Shore” and its famously bronzed cast, however, took the law beyond sun lamps to block anyone younger than 14 from getting even a spray tan.