Gov Watch

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NBFAA ramps up fall fest on capitol hill

John Chwat, NBFAA's lobbyist on Capitol Hill, predicts lots of action on lots of topics of interest to the security industry, including stimulus money freeing up, a fire detection bill being attached to the health care bill, and more.

"There will be a heavy agenda for September and October. The legislators say they want to leave [Washington for recess] by mid-October. That means it will be a very busy fall," Chwat said. 

First, those stimulus funds are going to start flowing in the fall, Chwat said. "The bulk of the $787 billion hasn't been allocated yet," he said. In the winter and fall, expect funds to move to the states in the guise of formula grants to states and county governments.

In September, Congress will take up a health care bill and Chwat is hoping to get provisions for a fire detection-equipment bill sponsored by Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY) included in that bill. Arcuri's bill creates a grant program to encourage nursing homes, hospices and assisted living homes to install fire detection equipment.

Chwat is also working with the Vermont NBFAA chapter to talk to Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), who is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who is chair of the House Crime Subcommittee, about getting the committees to consider HR 1939, background check legislation for the security industry. "There are about 10 other background check bills [being pushed by different groups], but ours is unique because it grants the Attorney General power to control access to the [background check] database for our members."

Chwat is also approaching the Small Business Committee about the bill, noting that background checks (or the lack of them) can have a major impact on small businesses.

Also in September, the Senate will take up the 21st Century School Modernization Bill, Chwat said. The NBFAA was successful in getting language included in the House version (which passed in the spring) that said that funds from the bill can be used for the professional installation of life safety and security alarm equipment. "It's a multi-million dollar bill for the modernization, repair and renovation of K-12 schools," Chwat said.

All eyes on Legislature in Virginia

In Virginia, the NBFAA and a new group called STAT (search "Stop The Alarm Tax" at www.securitysystemsnews for background on this issue) will be watching to see, first, if Republicans maintain control of the legislature, and, second, if a new alarm tax bill is introduced. "November will be key. All of the Virginia Legislature is up for reelection. It will be more beneficial if the Republicans retain control because they've held up the bill for two years," Chwat explained. The legislative session starts in January, but industry advocates will be watching to see if an alarm tax bill is prefiled in November or December before the session, or in January at the start of the session. "We anticipate that something will be coming up," Chwat said.