Legislation supported by the Electronic Security Association that would give companies in the industry access to the FBI’s database for criminal background checks was recently approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and will now go before the full senate.
The "Electronic Life Safety and Security Systems Federal Background Check Act" was actually approved as part of an amendment to another bill, the "Child Protection Improvements Act" (S. 645). According to John Chwat, director of government relations for ESA, the legislation simply secures permission from Congress and the Department of Justice to give ESA members in states that do not have licensing or federal background check requirements for security installers access to the FBI database.
"This is a legal process that those industry groups which are not law enforcement or states have to get Congress to permit them to access that database," Chwat explained.
According to Chwat, 27 states have no federal background check requirements as it relates the security installation industry including some of the most heavily populated states in the nation, such as Florida, Ohioand Pennsylvania.
"In any event, ESA thinks that it’s very, very important to try to secure this access for federal background check purposes," Chwat said. "This is not to say that individual companies can’t do background checks, which they do with private background check companies on their own, but the FBI database protects an employer because a person going from state-to-state with a criminal record – they’re on that database."
While there was no opposition to the bill when it was initially brought up for a vote in the committee, Chwat said that one of the committee members, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), questioned the need for such legislation for the industry. However, those questions were quickly answered by ESA members who placed numerous phone calls and wrote letters to the senator’s office. Chwat said he spoke with both Durbin and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and was able to "eliminate" opposition to the legislation on both sides of the aisle.
Congress stated in its findings for the legislation that "employees in the electronic life safety and security systems industry have access to public and private structures and should undergo a federal background check in order to protect lives and property."
The bill will now go before the entire Senate floor for a vote and then on to the House for passage. Barring any roadblocks, Chwat is hopeful the bill could be on the president’s desk before the end of the year.