12 legislative issues to watch for in 2012

Sitting in the industry affairs committee meeting of the Electronic Security Association yesterday, this question was raised: Why are our members not paying more attention to real government legislation issues? The information certainly is out there. ESA does a great job spreading it via its own lists and trade publications like this one let you know as well. So in the end it’s up to you to realize that the information coming out of ESA’s government affairs efforts impact your business, that these are things that can affect your licensing, your ability to sell monitored accounts – basically, they affect the future of your business. So with that in mind, here’s what our industry is facing according to John Chwat, the government relations manager for ESA.

1. Auto-contract renewal. There were over a dozen bills in 2011 state legislative sessions that would put caps on automatic renewal of contracts. The most common format is that it would require a 30-day notice period, and that your customers would actually have consent to a renewal – basically it means you have to tell your customers their contract is ending (not a big deal there, I suppose), but it would mean that they couldn’t just let their contract continue. They’d actually have to fill out the contract again or affirm it online or by phone or whatever means proscribed to continue your service. That matters because our industry today relies on our customers being able to just count on the fact that they have alarm monitoring service, and that helps you keep your customers. The other challenge is that if someone ignores the paperwork and doesn’t renew, you would be forced to turn off their service, and that may surprise them in an unfortunate time when they absolutely need your monitored security service.

2. New licensing in states. Not all states have specific licensing requirements for our industry professionals. There have been major efforts in states like Vermont, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Arizona to implement licensing where there has not been licensing in the past.

3. Electricians’ licensing. There are efforts from electrical contractors, electrical unions and electricians to automatically grant electricians licenses to install and service security systems. The problem is the automatic nature of this proposal. Electricians probably know everything there is to know about 200-amp service drops, 12-2 Romex and high voltage, but it’s unfair and dangerous to assume that they know security. The industry is fighting to keep electrical licensing separate from security licensing so that only real, trained security pros are the ones recommending and installing security and life safety systems.

4. Recognition of certification. The ESA has the National Training School, and it’s good to know that many states recognize NTS training for their licensing. But more states could recognize that as well, and that’s been an effort for the ESA.

5. Mandated suppression. There are moves afoot to mandate fire sprinkler style suppression in homes and facilities where it was previously not required. The National Fire Sprinkler Association is campaigning for this, but it’s being fought notably by home building industry groups like the NHBA.

6. Tax credits for suppression but not detection. There’s a move afoot at states and at federal levels to get tax credits for installing sprinklers in buildings and homes, but the ESA wants the legislators to understand that “suppression + detection = fire protection.” The tax credits need to be available for both fire detection installations and the fire sprinkler installs.

7. Disaster area access. If there’s been a disaster or terrorist incident and you need to get your staff into the area for whatever reason (monitoring, work on commercial security systems, etc.), there’s no formal process for getting security industry pros allowed into those areas. ESA is on the Department of Homeland Security Emergency Services Sector Coordinating Council to establish credentials for security industry professionals so your employees can have access to the emergency areas. Some headway has been made in Mississippi and Louisiana, but the effort is needed nationally and probably has to be endorsed at a state level.

8. Criminal background checks. Chwat said that around 20 industries and organizations have access to the FBI criminal background check database (the guard services industry is one), and ESA hopes to gain access for this industry. Why it matters: If you can’t check your employees nationally, you might have an employee in Texas that jumped over from another state where he/she was wanted or convicted of a crime.

9. Spectrum issues. Our industry uses radio spectrum to transmit monitoring information, and the ESA and the Alarm Industry Coaltion Committee (AICC) is working to keep our access to the radio spectrum we use. There were efforts federally that almost meant we would have loss the 450-470 Mhz spectrum, but it was preserved (Chwat was instrumental). They continue to watch these FCC types of issues.

10. Municipal monitoring. It centers around some towns in Illinois, but there are efforts from some cities to require that life safety monitoring be done only by the city’s own monitoring center. Where this has happened, companies have already lost hundreds of accounts. It pits cities against well-established services of the private industry. Mt. Prospect is one city that seems to be moving in that direction. Some states have pre-emptive legislation that blocks such efforts to infringe on private industry, but those states (Texas and Georgia among them) are rare.

11. CO detection. Together with the Security Industry Association, there are efforts to establish consumer product safety rules for carbon monoxide detectors.

12. POTS hanging by a thread. You’ve probably already heard about it already on SIW – some of the primary POTS line owners are interested in killing POTS and would do so sooner rather than later if given permission by the FCC. Being that most of our industry’s customers still rely on POTS for alarm monitoring, this is serious business. Yes, there are IP communicators and cellular radios, but installing those communicators and radios costs money and time. One idea is that if and when POTS is slated for death, there would be some federal health to pay for the conversion – much as there were low-cost and free set-top boxes to help convert analog TV subscribers over to digital a couple of years ago. The industry needs to be involved in the discussion of how (and when) POTS is killed.

So there you have it, 12 issues that really stand to impact your business. What do you do? Get involved. Write letters to representatives. Join your local association chapter and band together. Some other things you can do is join ESA for the Day on Capitol Hill (April 17-18, 2012) and attend an upcoming webinar from ESA and SIA about the credentialing issue for access to emergency zones (#7 on this list). Whatever you do, don’t put your head in the sand and pretend these won’t affect you, because these issues will!

(Many thanks to John Chwat for helping us explore these issues.)

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