Industry battles a Va. plan to tax accounts

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

RICHMOND, Va.--In a Feb. 3 call to arms, the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association asked the industry to voice its opposition to a pair of bills, currently working their way through the Virginia legislature, that would tax security companies to the tune of $1 to $2.50 per monitored account (fire or security), per month.

Under the heading, "Legislation threatens alarm industry. We need help from across the country now," the NBFAA urged Virginia security companies and companies that do business in Virginia to call their legislators and members of the legislative committees considering the bill. A Feb. 5 update noted one of the bills, HB 1997, will be heard today, Feb. 5, by the House Sub-Committee, Compensation and Retirement, at 3:30 p.m. in the 9th floor conference room of the Virginia Legislature.

The revenue-raising idea is being pushed by the Professional Firefighters Union. "The bill could raise tens of millions of dollars," said John Chwat, lobbyist for the NBFAA.

A similar plan was passed in the Virginia Senate in 2008, but was killed in the House.

The Virginia Burglar & Fire Alarm Association has been keeping close tabs on the bill, said John Kochensparger, president of the VBFAA. "We've been fighting this for a couple of weeks. We've had teams from the VBFAA at every [legislative committee] hearing. We've had two Legislative Days, one where [alarm company representatives] went to see members of the Senate and then later members of the House," he said.

Kochensparger said the VBFAA is "more organized this year" in its response to the bill. He's encouraged by the fact that the bill is now "bottled up in committee," in the Senate, saying that "shows that our side of the issue is being heard."

However, both Chwat and Kochensparger said even if they are able to kill the bill this year, as they are cautiously optimistic they will, the issue is not dead.

"We do not believe it will pass this year, we are more concerned about next year," said Kochensparger. The Firefighters Union hasn't shown any signs of backing off, he said. In addition, Virginia Democrats have historically been more supportive of this kind of tax, he said. Currently the Senate is dominated by Democrats and the House by Republicans. Kochensparger expects more Democrats to be elected to House in elections later this year. He speculated that more Democrats would mean more support for this measure in 2010.

For more information on the bill and its status, visit www.alarm.org.