(Editor's Note: A version of this story first appeared in IPRO’s email newsletter. It is being republished here with the permission of IPRO and CEDIA.)
It’s been a busy legislative season in CEDIA’s Public Policy department. As some state legislatures are winding down, I’m able to peek my head above water long enough to give you a quick summary of what we’ve faced so far in 2014.
Three bills in New Jersey and Maryland emerged early in the sessions as ones to watch. The bills concerned issues that are becoming part of a general pattern that we as an industry need to watch closely.
The first bill, introduced in mid-January, is New Jersey Assembly Bill 1242. It would require anyone who designs, sells, installs, services, or maintains home automation systems, access control systems, intercom systems or closed circuit television systems to get an alarm license.
This bill fits with a disturbing trend we’ve come to see—namely, the alarm/security industry seeking to define much of our work under their sphere.
The sweeping definitions in AB1242 are problematic—by way of example, anyone who installs video cameras, IP cameras, monitors, etc. would be forced to get an alarm license (which would itself require a four-year apprenticeship program), a requirement that would become effective immediately upon the bill’s passage, essentially putting our guys out of work.
That’s not even mentioning the added insurance costs that come with suddenly being licensed in a “life-safety” field such as alarm/security. We estimate that insurance costs could as much as quadruple for those having to be licensed in that area.
In late March, Darren Reaman, CEDIA director of public policy, CEDIA’s Trenton-based lobbyist Sal Anderton of Porzio Governmental Affairs, and two CEDIA members, Bob Gullo of Electronics Design Group and Ryan Herd of 1 Sound Choice, met in New Jersey in an important stakeholders meeting with the bill’s proponents to explain our position and objections. CEDIA is preparing for a meeting with the legislative bill sponsor to cover our concerns with AB 1242 in its current form and review potential amendment language.
CEDIA faced similar bills in Texas, Florida, and Michigan last year. CEDIA was successful in each state to ensure home technology professionals were not required to have a security license to complete home automation projects. While the Texas legislation was defeated on the House floor at the close of the 2013 Texas session, CEDIA is preparing for the issue again in 2015 and it is CEDIA’s hope to work with the legislation’s sponsor to find some common ground.
CEDIA receives daily legislative reports covering the U.S. and Canada on bills related to the residential electronic systems industry and we continue to lobby, track and monitor legislation that would directly impact our field.
Maryland Senate Bill 877 and Maryland House Bill 1119 were the two other major bills causing some trepidation. These companion bills would have phased out all licensing at the county or municipal level in Maryland and require anyone working in the electrical trade, including low-voltage contractors, to either be a master electrician or have one on-site at all times.
CEDIA led a coalition of national low-voltage associations to ensure the legislation was amended so low-voltage contractors and technicians would not have to be licensed as a high-voltage master electrician. In addition, numerous Maryland-based CEDIA members provided valuable prospective at the various committee hearings on the legislation. While HB1119 was amended and passed the House, it never got to a vote in the Senate before the session concluded on April 7. The bill could be re-introduced in a future legislative session.
These were just the latest examples of powerful groups introducing legislation that would require electrician licenses for the low-voltage work many of our dealers have done for years. We don’t anticipate a change on this front anytime soon.
The integration of technology brought powerful multi-national telecommunication and security companies, as well as electrical unions, into the home automation realm, and they want to secure their stake in the industry. CEDIA works daily for our members to ensure we are the, “Voice of the Residential Electronic Systems Industry.” Together, we have worked diligently to guarantee our member’s ability to own and operate their business is not impeded.
Besides the bills mentioned above, Darren and I continue to monitor 279 bills in 42 states. It’s a busy job, as you might imagine, but it is highly rewarding to work alongside our members to safeguard the residential electronic systems trade.
Keep your industry contacts “in the know” about the increasing introduction of these kinds of bills. If troubling legislation is introduced in their area, advise them to reach out to CEDIA and volunteer their time to testify and lend their expertise toward the amendment or defeat of the bill. Legislators often don’t fully understand the impact of their bills. Your dealers’ testimony could be the difference.
I wanted to give our thanks to IPRO and Residential Systems for allowing us the opportunity to speak to our industry. I can’t emphasize this point enough—your voice is tremendously influential and you can play a vital role in CEDIA’s public policy efforts.
For those of you who are members of CEDIA, we thank you. Please join the CEDIA Grassroots Legislative Network today. You can find more information at cedia.net/connect/government-affairs, and, as always, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Darren at email@example.com.
If you’re not a CEDIA member, consider becoming one today.
Nick McLain is CEDIA’s public policy and member communications manager.