Legislative Battles Hint at an Emerging Push for Security Licensing
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Legislative Battles Hint at an Emerging Push for Security Licensing

Nick McLain
Sep 10, 2013

Everyone in the CEDIA offices around the world works their tail off for our members and this industry.

That being said, there’s one guy in our stateside office who stands out for his tireless work ethic: Darren Reaman, CEDIA’s director of public policy.

Aside from being the hardest-working guy in the office, he’s also probably the nicest. Under that amiable exterior, however, is a strong drive to ensure our members don’t lose ground in any legislative battles.

While state legislatures are in session, this guy spends almost all his waking hours tracking legislative bills around the country, corresponding with legislators in each area, traveling to testify at hearings in places small and large, writing up amendment language, and numerous other tasks I’ll spare you the details of.

This most recent legislative session has been exceedingly active for Darren. Bills in Texas, Florida and Michigan emerged suddenly, each with similar aims.

It’s not a secret that home automation is an emerging and growing market. CEDIA’s Benchmarking Survey showed steady gains in systems integration & control as a percentage of total revenue. While analysts recently estimated the percentage of homes with home automation systems at just 3 percent, that number is likely to increase to double-digit rates over the next few years.

Everyone wants to get a piece of the pie. While security is often a subcomponent of a home automation system, major security companies are offering expanded home automation products, such as ADT’s Pulse package. Big-time cable and telecom companies are doing the same by incorporating automation/security features in products like Comcast’s Xfinity, AT&T’s Digital Life and Verizon’s FiOS.


Spotlight on the Statehouses


 Technology is converging, and large, multi-billion-dollar service companies are expanding beyond their traditional services in the home. One resounding effect of this convergence is an increase in related legislative activity. The major players are seeking to influence the legislative process in ways that secure or protect their competitive advantage.

And the little guy caught in the crossfire? That would be us — the residential electronic systems industry.

The first battle between these corporate behemoths looks to be happening in the statehouses:

In Texas, House Bill 75 would have, in essence, put the sales, installation, maintenance and repair of camera systems under the purview of private security companies, and thus, could require home technology professionals to get security licensing.

The legislation even went beyond its initial intent and would have required a security license for any device that would transmit videos or photos over the Internet or an intranet. This would have reached into regulating systems that integrated with touch screens or small phones. Thankfully, through the efforts of Darren and on-the-ground representation in Texas, the bill was defeated.

A similar proposed statute change, House Bill 988, would put locks, both mechanical and electric, under the auspices of security, again requiring a license. That was also defeated.

In Florida, the home base of ADT, House Bill 973 would require a certified electrical or alarm contractor license for work related to the installation, maintenance, inspection, replacement, or service of any new or existing alarm systems. The bill even applied to anything that could be deemed a “component” of an alarm system, such as home automation equipment, thermostats, and video cameras.

Needless to say, this was, pun intended, an alarming bill. Thankfully, Darren and on-the ground representation in Florida were able to include language that exempted our guys from any additional licensure requirements. The bill has been enacted.


In Michigan, House Bill 4591 (backed by the cable/telecom companies), would exempt from an electrical license anyone doing security alarm work or home monitoring system work. That part CEDIA doesn’t argue. However, the wording of the statute as currently written could be construed as requiring a security/alarm system license or registration for “home monitoring system” work.

CEDIA is working to get a letter of clarification from the Michigan Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs to ensure additional security licensing for the installation, maintenance, or servicing of “home monitoring systems” is not required.


A Sign of Things to Come?


 These bills represent yet another hurdle for Darren. Until this year, his usual battles consisted of legislatives issues such as electrical licensing, many times spearheaded by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), an influential electricians’ union, pushing to reclassify work that our guys in the CEDIA channel do regularly as solely the purview of electricians. While this continues to be a relevant and important issue to CEDIA, the home automation/security issue has quickly become an equal legislative priority for us.

In fairness to the major security, cable, and telecom companies behind some of the recent bills, their intent is to gain an edge in the automation market over each other; the CEDIA channel, small potatoes in their world, is mostly overlooked (and not in a malicious manner). And once they’ve become aware of us, they have shown a willingness to negotiate concerning our side of the issue.

But if you or your company does automation work that spills over into possible security features, the writing on the wall seems clear: you’ll probably need a security/alarm license. So consider being proactive and getting that license if it’s at all feasible, because if this legislative session is any indication, this battle might only be heating up.

In the meantime, you’ll find Darren in his office and on the road, fighting the good fight to make sure our members have a voice on these important issues.

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While 2013 state legislative sessions have ended, CEDIA is preparing for the 2014 sessions and continues to be a resource on this important issue. To learn more, visit the Security Solutions Central area and the Member Services Area at CEDIA EXPO, as we have compiled the various state security licensing regulations and requirements within the forthcoming 2013 CEDIA Home Technology Professional Licensing and Regulatory Reference Directory. Learn more about CEDIA's public policy efforts here, or contact Darren Reaman at dreaman@cedia.org.

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CEDIA blog posts are intended to provide general information and should not be regarded as legal opinions or advice.

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