TRENTON - One of the top priorities under the gold dome Monday was what soon may be flying above it.
Lawmakers debated and passed a bill placing restrictions on the unmanned aerial drones that will be legally allowed to fly in the skies above New Jersey in the next two years.
Drones, which are most commonly known for their military use overseas, are also used by police and fire departments for search and rescue, surveillance and anti-terrorism purposes.
Incoming General Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto says the technology presents many unique challenges. "We want to make sure that law enforcement and first responders are able to use this to be helpful for the public in cases of emergency," he says, "but we want to be mindful that everybody's privacy is protected."
More than 70 lawmakers agreed with Prieto, passing a bill that would require law enforcement to get a warrant before using a drone. There would be exceptions for emergencies.
Legislators are rushing to get their bills passed before the Jan. 13 deadline. Another measure will impose criminal penalties on anyone who abuses a service dog, like those for the visually impaired. The bill had support from both sides of the aisle.
Both the drone bill and the service dog abuse bill must go back to the Senate for final approval.
Also passed in the Assembly Monday was a bill that would ban discrimination in the workplace against pregnant women. It passed 77 to 1, and now goes to Gov. Chris Christie's desk for signature.