Week 3> Who is Influencing your City Council?

September 14, 2012

This week is a bit of a warning – Licensing of individuals and companies has once again become a threat to the profession as it seems more local jurisdictions are attempting to require licenses/permits for low-voltage work.  With the federal government failing to get anything done – states and local jurisdictions are taking matters into their own hands.

Just last week, NSCA was informed of an ordinance in Omaha, NE that would require a license for work under 50 volts or less. This ordinance was introduced on August 28, heard in a public hearing September 11 and scheduled to be voted on by the city council September 18th.  If passed – it would be enacted 15 days later. NSCA informed its members in the area, discussed the pros and cons of the situation and asked that members appear at the public hearing.  More than 35 low-voltage systems integrators representing data, A/V, security, and residential systems were present to oppose the bill.  Many asked, “Why was this introduced?” “What was the reasoning for 50 volts?” “Why is this happening so fast?” Why didn’t you speak with our industry?” “Do you realize what this will do to small businesses in our area?”

It’s critical you are aware of what is happening within your local governments.  Watch the city councils, electric boards, and public safety councils – whatever groups handle licensure or permit requirements as this has become a popular initiative across the country.

Issue:  Individual and company licensing of low-voltage/ power-limited/ limited energy installers, technicians, and contractors…

Impact:  NSCA has been reacting to legislation that enables us to get exemption into licensing bills that, for the most part, would include low-voltage in electrical licensing requirements.  Our position on individual and company licensing is:

  1. Low-voltage systems integrators have been specifically trained and often have specific certifications to install the systems or products that electricians do not have.
  2. The risk (aka volt levels) factors for low-voltage systems integrators are not the same, nor the level of training, insurance requirements etc… They are completely different professions.
  3. NSCA advocates for licensure as long as it represents the specific work and training for the type of work being performed.  Most will agree it protects the industry from trunk slammers, ensures qualified people are working on the job and protecting the employer and the customers.

This leads to what you need to pay attention to this fall when choosing your local candidates. Consider these characteristics and how important they are to whom sets your policy: Are your local and state politicians business savvy individuals? Do they know both sides of the issue?  Do they understand the impact of not being informed on issues facing their constituents? The responses in Omaha this week showed that the council members heard one side of the story and set policy that if passed – would certainly put a significant number of people out of business or force them to change their business models and spend more money to be competitive.

The underlying concern is who is pushing these initiatives?  More often than not, we’ve seen that licensing has been a way to allow electrical unions to do more of the work often conducted by systems contractors/ technicians/ installers.  In Omaha, the voltage level was originally set at 30, changed to 50 and we all know 70 is the standard for most A/V systems.  Cedar Rapids, Iowa also is working on requirements for permits for low voltage integrators and because of the education they have done with the city council and electrical board – they changed the volt levels to reflect the work they do.

NSCA prides itself in being an advocate for its members in these cases. Our job is to inform you of these circumstances (as some just realized you may get 1 day notice) but by not being active and educating your political officials you may not have a business to worry about anymore.   Monitor your city council agendas, set meetings with your representatives, and establish relationships so if there is a question about a policy they know you are the expert to call.  State issues not only are more realistic – but it presents the greatest opportunity to get engaged and be an active advocate for the systems integration profession. NSCA will provide you with information and resources to be a powerful advocate – it’s one of the greatest reasons to belong to the association.

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