As part of larger tax bill, new hope for Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act

Dalton says tax bill has promise in this Congress; FSIA yet to be introduced in House this year
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Monday, July 8, 2013

PATTERSON, N.Y.—The Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (FSIA) was introduced in the U.S. Senate in June, and after 10 years of waiting, the industry is hopeful Congress will approve it as part of an omnibus tax bill.

“They are working on a major tax bill and that’s what we’ve been waiting for, because that would be a vehicle finally for us, we hope,” Jim Dalton, Capitol Hill liaison for the National Fire Sprinkler Association, based here, told Security Systems News.

FSIA was first introduced after 100 people were killed in The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., in 2003. The legislation would amend the Internal Revenue Code so that property owners could write off the cost of installing fire sprinkler systems over time, recouping expenses.

The bill actually has strong bipartisan support. But because it would impact tax revenues, supporters believe its best bet is not as a standalone, but attached to a tax bill seeking major revisions in the nation’s tax code.

Dalton said the next step is for FSIA to be introduced in the House. However, he said, because the House is working on a big tax bill, Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, “has asked his committee members to wait until he gets the big picture painted before they submit their individual tax bills.”

He said he believes this Congress will pass a major tax bill—if not this year then in 2014. Dalton said that’s because Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is not running for re-election, and “I think he really wants to get this [tax bill] done under his watch.”

“So we’re hoping they can get it done and we’re hoping we can make the bus,” Dalton said.

FSIA covers commercial buildings such as nightclubs, nursing homes and high-rise apartment buildings. Because today’s building codes require fire sprinklers in new commercial buildings, the bill is designed to address the lack of sprinklers in older buildings constructed before today’s standards, Dalton said.

“This would provide the incentive to that building owner to make the investment because he would be able to recover his cost in an accelerated way compared to the situation today,” Dalton told SSN.

FSIA was introduced in the Senate June 14 by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Collins, told SSN that the senator has been a cosponsor of the bill each time it has been introduced over the years.

When asked why she supports it, Kevin provided a statement from Collins: “Each year, fires kill roughly 100 firefighters and 3,000 occupants of buildings and result in more than $15 billion in property damage. That doesn’t have to happen. This legislation would help small businesses and building owners afford to be able to upgrade to state-of-the-art sprinkler systems. New sprinkler systems are required in new buildings, but we need to do more to ensure the best systems are retrofitted in older buildings. Encouraging the installation of the best sprinkler technology will save lives, property, and money.”

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation recently launched an online letter campaign in support of FSIA. The NFSA also has a draft letter on its website that industry members and others can download to use to lobby members of Congress to support the bill.