ESA pushes forward during lame-duck session

A number of important issues still on table will, at least, be picked up next year
Tuesday, November 4, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Electronic Security Association doesn’t expect much to happen to benefit the industry in the waning days of the lame-duck Congressional session, but that doesn’t mean it’s not pursuing its goals to the fullest.

Apprenticeship tax credits, access to federal background check databases, the impact on the security industry of telecommunications broadband expansion and funding for school security technology are among security issues on the table. ESA will be pushing hard on each, John Chwat, ESA’s director of government relations, told Security Systems News.

All are topics of pending bills, and there’s a chance they could make their way into big budget bills at the end of the session, he said. Regardless, ESA will continue to pursue those issues until Congress adjourns in mid-December, all the while hoping to make a dent so that if they’re not passed the topics will be picked up again with the 114th Congress.

“It’s very difficult at the end of the session to get anything passed, especially with this political climate,” Chwat said.

If the measures don’t get passed, they will need to be reintroduced in January.

“For the next Congress, there seems to be some support for apprenticeship tax credits. I view this as a very critical issue for the 114th Congress because our industry needs qualified young people for future employment who know the technologies and are trained on them properly,” Chwat said.

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Tim Scott of South Carolina seem to be on board with a bipartisan bill that recognizes the importance of giving tax credits to security employers that offer apprenticeship programs, he said. He added that ESA has a nationally approved Department of Labor apprenticeship program.

As for background checks, companies that want to access federal databases need Congressional approval.

“A very large GAO report (soon) will be sent to Congress that looks at different industry groups such as ours that are seeking to access federal background check databases,” he said.

“We have a bill in the Senate and we have a bill in the House. It will be very, very difficult to pass those in (the remaining days of the session) but we’re going to try our best to explain to leadership that only 24 states have this access, and 26 states have no requirement. And therefore it could be that people with criminal backgrounds could become employees (of security companies) if not criminally background checked,” he said.

ESA also is monitoring the “very important” telecommunications broadband expansion issue.

“We’re looking for any changes in policy that relate to the FCC and the impact on the industry as it transitions into the broadband security universe,” Chwat said.

ESA, a member of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee, is working closely with AICC on that issue to ensure that no alarm or monitoring companies would be restricted by any changes in broadband expansion, especially as it relates to Internet services.

The school security issue, which SSN has reported on before, seeks to have federal funds allocated to states for technology, not just for research purposes. Working with SIA, ESA wants Congress to allocate money to school districts in a formula grant process.

“We are focused on the 114th Congress to correct this, to allocate money to the states on top of state funding,” Chwat said. He provided Indiana as an example of a state with $9 million in funding for school security, $5 million of which would be used for technology.