Legislative Roundup: Congress keeps industry busy

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—This month we’re launching a monthly roundup of legislative news, both state and federal, of interest to security and fire integrators, installers and monitoring companies.

The reports will be based on interviews with the legislative team of the Security Industry Association, with occasional commentary from other industry sources. The topic of the reports will vary. We may examine a crop of bills pending in Congress, an executive order, or a Department of Homeland Security initiative.

And because legislation in one state can have a ripple effect, our reports will not just be limited to what’s going on in Washington. Look to the Legislative Roundup for updates on what’s brewing in state legislatures that may eventually affect the way business is done in your state.

We’ll examine SIA’s legislative priorities and provide some insight into how state or federal action is affecting the security world and your business. We’ll also identify which government officials are working on issues of interest to the industry.

A frequent contributor to the Legislative Roundup will be Marcus Dunn, director of government relations for SIA, who spoke with SSN recently about what the legislative landscape looks like at the moment and what it might look like in the coming months.

Dunn noted that the current session of Congress has not been the most productive on record, but that is not unusual given that it’s a presidential election year, with both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate in play.

“It is not surprising that legislators are holding back on major decisions, pending the mood of voters this November,” he said.

Dunn said that there is essentially a “blueprint for what the government intends to purchase” in the president’s budget and more specifically, in the 13 appropriations bills.

“As every sector of society depends on security, the industry can find items of interest in every appropriations bill,” he said.

Appropriations measures should be passed by the beginning of the fiscal year (Oct. 1), Dunn said, but the more likely scenario is that all or most of those bills will “end up in one large legislative measure called the omnibus.”

“The smart money is on such a situation playing out this year, with nearly all of the government agencies having to wait until sometime after Nov. 6 to receive official authorization to contract and spend FY 2013 dollars,” Dunn said.

Also of importance to the industry are Capitol Hill hearings on port security, biometrics, transportation security, credentialing cards and surveillance, he said. Those discussions are governed by the composition of the committees, which is something SIA watches closely.

“Authorizing committees, such as the House Homeland Security Committee and its subordinate subcommittees, use these hearings to bring in expert witnesses who assist members in formulating policy,” Dunn said. “Often these forums are used for political gain or for posturing on a particular issue that might be close to the chairman of that particular subcommittee.”

He said it is important for security associations and other interested parties to closely monitor these hearings and to participate if applicable.

“Today’s hearings are tomorrow’s legislation, and this is no time to be at the beach, waiting for November,” he said.