Lobbyist optimistic about new line-up on hill

Monday, January 1, 2007

WASHINGTON--With Congressmen such as Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) in charge of important committees, the alarm industry should expect action on VoIP, said John Chwat, the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association'a point person in Washington. He also expects major changes with tax bills and funding for security projects from the new Democratically controlled Congress when it gets back to work.
That will happen in earnest after the State of the Union on Jan. 30.
"As of Dec. 6, there have been some announcements that will have a major impact on the security industry for the new Congress," Chwat said. A top priority for the alarm industry is to force VoIP providers to notify customers of potential alarm communication interruption, which the security industry would like to see addressed in a telecommunications bill.
Rep. Ed Markey will chair the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, a particularly important subcommittee because that's where VoIP language and related issues will first be debated. Markey is a veteran congressman who many years ago "was the creator of the breakup of AT&T." His vast understanding of the telecommunications industry bodes well, Chwat believes, for the interests of the alarm industry.
Markey's subcommittee reports to the Energy and Commerce Committee, which will be chaired by John Dingle (D-Mich.), the most senior congressman on the Hill. "Both will have a major impact on telecommunications issues," he said.
On the Senate side, Dan Inoeye (D-Hawaii) will take over the Commerce and Science Committee, which has jurisdiction over telecommunications. The telco subcommittees are likely to be reorganized, and there are rumors that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) may take over the communications subcommittee, Chwat said.
Chwat believes these players will support industry efforts to put VoIP legislation in place: "They were very active on VoIP and e911 all through the years, so I think they'll have receptive ears."
In addition, there will be all new players on committees governing homeland security and public safety, with Democrats taking leadership positions in all committees. The subcommittees had not been organized as of Dec. 6.
Chwat predicted that there will be major changes in the funding of security projects. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y) will chair the House Ways and Means Committee, where tax bills such as one that would give a tax deduction of up to $5,000 for security devices as part of residential and commercial installations will be reintroduced.
There are many other tax issues as well, he said. The security industry and other businesses would, for example, like to repeal a provision in the tax code that requires the withholding of three percent of service contract fees if you do work for federal, state or local governments. "It's sort of a hidden tax on doing work for the government," Chwat said.
"For someone who's doing some rewiring work for a City Council, withholding that three percent could have a major effect on their business," he said.
"It's going to be a very active year, and the Democrats have said that in the first 100 days there are going to be many, many bills introduced," Chwat said.