Proposed N.Y. licensing bill creates controversy

Editor's note: The following article is abbreviated from the Feb. 2011 issue of SD&I magazine.

A draft state licensing bill proposed by a committee of the New York Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NYBFAA) and the Long Island Alarm Association has drawn criticism and concern from the central station industry.

The legislation seeks separate licensing of central station monitoring companies. Currently, only alarm companies selling, installing and servicing alarms are licensed (Article 6D,1992). Article 6E "Business of Alarm Monitoring," raised concern from wholesale monitoring companies and brick and mortar central stations, who question its necessity, the impact it will have on revenues and whether it can be effectively enforced in the state, which is currently in budget crisis and financial disarray.

According to John Lombardi, president of Commercial Instruments & Alarm Systems Inc., Fishkill, N.Y., a member of the committee proposing the legislation and a second vice president of the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), the legislation's focus is on consumer protection through background checks and fingerprinting, as well as homeland security (circumventing offshore monitoring companies from entering the industry).

"Despite what others in the industry have said, this was not just written by 'alarm guys,'" said Lombardi.

Lombardi said opponents voiced it would ultimately be too expensive and in general is unnecessary.

"It's not too expensive," Lombardi said. "What if every jurisdiction in New York required fingerprinting? That's when it would get expensive. Here, one law would cover it and it would be one flat fee for the year for example, about $200. There's value to legislation if it's good and we believe it is."

Ed Bonifas, president of CSAA and vice president of Alarm Detection Systems, Aurora, Ill., said CSAA "continues to monitor the issue closely and is acutely aware of the conflicting positions regarding it." Coincidently, CSAA had its Long Range Planning session scheduled for the end of January and will examine this. "Our position, if there is consensus, will be developed at that time," he said. Bonifas added the committee will also discuss national reciprocity [a federal bill] citing that, "the issue seems to have legs at this time."

Russell R. MacDonnell, chairman and chief executive officer of Rapid Response Monitoring Services, Fairfield, Conn., said he and other wholesale and brick and mortar monitoring companies have examined the draft and don't see the need for it.

"What troubles me is that legislators are not pushing for this and consumers are not crying out either," he said.
MacDonnell said that from Rapid Responses' perspective, the company already goes above and beyond what the bill proposes.

"Our central station operators are fingerprinted and DOD cleared," he stated. "I do not think that on balance this legislation will do anything material that is not already being done in the industry to protect consumers or businesses. We are not prepared to let the state of New York finalize the details of what it takes to be qualified, what test will be administered, what the final fee structure will be and how it will all be enforced."

According to Morgan Hertel, vice president and general manager of MACE CS in Anaheim, Calif., adding more bureaucracy is not a panacea.

"From a contract monitoring perspective, we operate in numerous states, which results in hundreds of background checks and it's incredibly time consuming and expensive," said Hertel.

To read the full version of this story, check out the February issue of Security Dealer & Integrator.