ARRL Grassroots Legislative Action Program Solicits Member Support for HR 2160
One of the biggest challenges that amateurs face is antenna restrictions -- those implemented by local governments and those originating from deed restrictions and building development covenants. As many hams know, the FCC's PRB-1 limited preemption order offers amateurs some relief when facing zoning and building restrictions; however, PRB-1 does not extend to include covenants, conditions and restrictions (known as CC&Rs). These deed and property use restrictions strongly and negatively affect the ability of Amateur Radio Service licensees to perform valuable emergency and disaster communications. Finding a method to extend the PRB-1 protections is a key component of the ARRL Legislative Action Program.
On April 29, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) introduced House Bill HR 2160 -- The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2009. If enacted into law, HR 2160 would instruct the Secretary of Homeland Security to undertake a study and report its findings to Congress within 180 days. The study would spell out uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio communications in emergencies and disaster relief. The study shall:
- Include recommendations for enhancements in the voluntary deployment of Amateur Radio licensees in disaster and emergency communications and disaster relief efforts.
- Include recommendations for improved integration of Amateur Radio operators in planning and in furtherance of the Department of Homeland Security initiatives.
- Identify unreasonable or unnecessary impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio communications -- such as the effects of private land use regulations on residential antenna installations -- and make recommendations regarding such impediments.
- Include an evaluation of Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-104, 110 Stat 56 ).
- Recommend whether Section 207 should be modified to prevent unreasonable private land use restrictions that impair the ability of amateurs to conduct, or prepare to conduct, emergency communications by means of effective outdoor antennas and support structures at reasonable heights and dimensions for the purpose in residential areas.
The bill does not automatically extend PRB-1 to include CC&Rs, but it takes a first big step in that direction by determining the extent that things such as CC&Rs impede the Amateur Service in performing public and emergency service communications.
HR 2160 has been assigned to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Getting the bill out of committee is the first major hurdle to overcome -- and that is where ARRL members play an essential role. As part of a phased campaign, members of the ARRL's Legislative Action Chairs and Coordinators, as well as Division Directors, sent letters to some ARRL members earlier this week; these members reside in a congressional district whose Member of Congress serves on that committee. The next phase will include all ARRL members.
This first set of members was encouraged to send letters expressing their support of HR 2160 to their congressional representative via Chwat & Company, the League's Washington legislative consultant. Due to security measures imposed on mail sent to congressional personnel, representatives from Chwat will hand deliver the letters to the respective Member of Congress.
"Getting HR 2160 passed is going to be a challenging process -- and every ARRL member needs to be involved," said ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND. "The actions this week by the Grassroots Legislative Action volunteers are just the first step in our journey into getting the bill signed into law."
Amateur Radio operators across the US repeatedly demonstrate their commitment to public service and emergency communications. Through their work with Homeland Security activities, state and local Emergency Management offices, as well as with numerous private agencies, Amateur Radio operators make a difference. HR 2160 can go a long way toward assisting thousands of amateurs who are restrained unreasonably by CC&Rs, but it will take a concerted effort by all amateurs for this effort to be successful.
For more information on HR 2160 or the Legislation Action Program, please contact Henderson via e-mail.