New laws: Changes to drone use, school hours

A drone is on display at Camera Corner in Green Bay on Wed, Apr. 9, 2014. (WLUK/Andrew LaCombe)
A drone is on display at Camera Corner in Green Bay on Wed, Apr. 9, 2014. (WLUK/Andrew LaCombe)

PULASKI/GREEN BAY - Wisconsin schools no longer have to teach at least 180 days a year.

The change immediately impacts a local school district. It was made official Wednesday by Gov. Scott Walker.

He also signed a bill that limits drone use. The technology that's increasing in popularity is now restricted due to concerns about privacy.

Camera Corner in Green Bay sells drones that can record video and audio.

"Recently we had an order of five come in and they were gone the next day," said Nicholas Wautier of Camera Corner.

But now, if you fly a drone that can record video or audio in a place where people expect privacy, like a backyard, you could be charged with a misdemeanor.

"They're trying to prevent people from intentionally spying on their neighbors," said Wautier.

Green Bay police have only responded to minor complaints about drone use and ask people to use common sense.

"You know, like anything else, use the golden rule. Respect your neighbors, respect their privacies," said Lt. Chad Ramos.

Camera Corner has been selling drones since last fall. Employees say people want to capture aerial views of anything from weddings to hunting land.

The new law also makes it a felony to sell, possess or operate a weaponized drone. It also requires police to obtain warrants before using drones to collect evidence except in emergency situations.

Ramos says Green Bay police currently don't use drones, but he sees potential in the technology.

"I could see it could have some value. Certainly any drone that has a camera system on it that allows you to look into an elevated position maybe before even going in tactically, certainly could have some value," he said.

While the state is now restricting the use of drones, another bill Governor Walker signed is giving schools flexibility.

State law had required schools to be in session for 180 days a year. Schools also had to follow requirements about hours of instruction.

Those hours range from 437 to 1,137, depending on the level. The requirement about hours stays in place, but the day rule has been eliminated.

The change immediately helps the Pulaski Community School District. Classes were canceled four days this year because of weather. Now it only has to meet for 179 days this year to meet the hour requirements.

Superintendent Milt Thompson doesn't foresee a drastic change in future schedules.

"As human beings and students being human beings, I don't think that they can stand eight and a half hours of instruction. I don't think that it's going to create radical change, but the flexibility will come in handy," said Thompson.

Other administrators have also said the change will save districts money by being open fewer days and avoiding higher transportation costs.

There are still about 100 bills awaiting Walker's signature. He has until May 1 to either sign, veto or allow the bills passed by the Legislature to become law without his signature.