Gov. Watch

Wait and see on sprinkler act in D.C.
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Friday, December 1, 2006

As Security Systems News was going to press just before the Nov. 8 election, activity on legislation in Congress had slowed considerably. In some quarters, activity had halted altogether as interested parties circled the wagons to wait and see what Congress will look like in January.
Jim Dalton, director of public fire protection for the National Fire Sprinkler Association, has worked hard this year on the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, which would give tax breaks to those who retrofit homes or businesses with sprinklers. However, he stopped all lobbying activity on this act in late fall. The Act has significant bipartisan support in both houses, with "165 sponsors in the House and 15 in the Senate, and fairly well split down the middle in terms of party," Dalton said.
This year, at least, Dalton said "we just couldn't get around the $2.2 billion [over 10 years] score." The score refers to the dollar amount that the Joint Tax Committee estimates the bill will cost the Treasury. "Although how they come up with the score is the biggest mystery in Washington," Dalton quipped.
Supporters pushed plans to lower the score by making it a "revenue neutral program," but were unsuccessful. Still, Dalton points out that $2.2 billion over 10 years is significantly less than the $10 billion that the NFPA estimates this country loses each year to fire damage. "In the long run, we lose a lot more in fire loss than the Treasury is going to lose," he said.
Dalton said that he and other supporters will work to reintroduce the bill when the 110th Congress convenes in January. He noted that many of the bill's important sponsors are in heavily contested races, including its lead Senate sponsor, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).
"Of course we'd like to see our champions back, but if by chance that does not happen, we'll still be in a strong position" because of widespread bipartisan support, Dalton said.