GELSSA helps kill low-voltage contractor bill

Legislation that would have dramatically expanded the number of contractors eligible to install security and life safety systems has been dropped
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ATLANTA—The governor’s office in Georgia put the brakes on a bill that would have made more than 9,000 additional contractors eligible to perform low-voltage installations. The bill, which passed the state Senate in February, was blocked before reaching the Georgia House for a vote.

The bill would have permitted those with Electrical Contractor Class II licensure—a high-voltage installation certification—to perform low-voltage installations, which includes contracting work for fire and security systems, without obtaining the statewide low-voltage license that’s currently required.

For opponents of the bill, it’s something of an improbable victory, considering that in February it passed the Georgia Senate 53-0, with three senators excused from the floor during the vote.

But that vote, according to John Loud, immediate past president of the Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association, took place before those opposing the bill could marshal support. Loud, who was instrumental in doing just that, said that by March 20, when the bill was up for a vote in the House, there was a groundswell of support opposing it—which was not lost on the governor’s office.

“Normally this just stays in the House and never goes to the governor’s office,” Loud said. “But because we got the governor’s office involved, it’s dead and done.”

A turning point in the proceedings, according to Loud, who is also owner and president of Kennesaw, Ga.-based Loud Security, was when Loud and some 30 alarm company owners testified before the House Regulated Industries Committee, advocating for the inclusion of Continuing Education Units in the bill. After the testimony, the committee opted to table the bill.

Days later, the governor’s office blocked the bill.

Such a reversal of fortunes, Loud said, seemed like a pipe dream in the wake of the Senate vote. “When you see it’s unanimous you’re thinking you’re in trouble,” he said. “But in over a month and a half we were able to mobilize people and get it killed.”

Loud characterized the victory as a “nice collaborative effort,” and said it was “neat to watch people get engaged and rally around an issue like this.”

At issue in the bill was whether the requirements for earning qualifications to conduct low-voltage installations would remain intact or be dismantled. Loud said that if the latter occurred, bringing about influx of 9,000 electrical contractors (Class I and II) into the low-voltage field, it could have undermined some of GELSSA’s recent progress in reducing false alarms, highlighted by its support of an enhanced call verification bill that passed last year.

The next step, according to Loud, is ensuring that GELSSA has funds to “invest in someone to be our watchdog,” so the organization is better equipped to respond to bills faster and in due proportion as they come through the state legislature.

“By the time we get to the end of this year, we know we need to collect the money to hire a lobbyist to be ready to protect us,” Loud said.