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The Devil is in the Details

Posted By Phil Banker, Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Thousands of bills are introduced during a calendar year in the various state legislatures, and many of these potential

   
    

new laws never find their way through the process. Most ESA members have not read a bill; in fact, just as in Washington, DC, most elected officials probably do not read the “fine print” of a bill before considering it for a vote. “The Devil is in the details” is very true when dealing with legislation at any level of government. The topics span a wide range of subjects all of which together impact ESA member profits and business operations, including licensing regulation, tax credit possibilities, new marketing options in surveillance and monitoring system installations and maintenance that the legislature designates.

The 2015 cycle in state legislatures began at the beginning of the year in January and for some states continues well into the winter holiday season. As of April 1, the ESA has over 194 bills being monitored in our monthly State Legislative Report. It is an interesting fact that some of the bills that impact the life safety and security industry have very unique details.

For example, in Arkansas, House Bill 1830 has a long name: the “Arkansas Manufacturer Responsibility and Consumer Convenience Information Technology Equipment Collection and Recovery Act,” better known as a “E-Waste” bill, which has some very laudatory recycling provisions. Buried in the bill is an exemption for the industry in which a “covered device” does not include, “…equipment or a system designed or intended for use in security, sensing, monitoring, anti-terrorism, and emergency services purposes.” Guess what? The same language exemption found its way into Massachusetts House Bill 756 on recycling of electronic products.

Take the issue of automatic contract renewal (ACR), which has seen the introduction of dozens of bills around the country, mostly language from a consumer’s point of view opposing the ACR provisions. Last year, we reported 18 bills on ACR; so far this year there are five. One such bill is pending  in the New York legislature, Senate Bill 4231 which includes the following language: “Automatic renewal of a contract for installing, servicing, monitoring or maintaining security or fire alarm systems under this article shall be unenforceable...”

It goes on to describe three consumer related terms and conditions, but essentially it is an exemption from ACR. There is a similar bill in the Assembly, No.6496, which is awaiting resolution.

These bills can become very complex. Take for example a pending bill in the Nevada legislature, Senate Bill 477, on installing automatic fire sprinkler systems in larger single family residences in the state. The bill directs a “governing body” after Oct. 1, 2015 by ordinance an area of 5,000 square feet or more of existing residential dwelling units needs to consider the water pressure available for use by firefighters, the width of the street which firefighters have to use for access, the steepness of the grade of any streets around the property, and the distance of the unit to a fire station. There also needs to be a cost-benefit analysis on adopting the ordinance.

Let’s not forget our pets. Again, in the New York State legislature, we find Assembly Bill 6378, requiring the installation and testing of fire alarm and sprinkler systems in pet stores  that house companion animals. In this case the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, together with the State Fire Administration would issue regulations further defining what systems and actions pet store owners need to take. Years ago there were similar bills introduced in several areas where there was a concentration of horse breeding and horse racing farms, after horses died in a fire that swept through their racetrack stables.

Legislatures can include some very interesting provisions in bills, provided someone reads them. That is what ESA does for members and the industry.

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