Senate Version of Amateur Radio Legislation Introduced
On Wednesday, January 26, Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), along with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), introduced Senate Bill 191, The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2011. Similar to HR 81 -- also called The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2011 -- that was introduced by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18) on January 5, the bill, if passed, would direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to undertake a study on emergency communications. S 191 has been referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Lieberman is the Chairman of the committee, while Collins is the Ranking Member.
The objective of the bill -- which is supported by the ARRL -- is for the Secretary of Homeland Security to study the uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio communications in emergencies and disaster relief and to identify and make recommendations regarding impediments to Amateur Radio communications, such as the effects of private land use regulations on residential antenna installations.
In April 2009, Representative Jackson Lee introduced HR 2160 in the House, The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2009. The bill gained an additional 41 cosponsors, but did not progress out of the committee of jurisdiction. In October 2009, Senators Lieberman and Collins introduced the Senate version of the bill -- S 1755 -- in that chamber. That bill made it all the way through the Senate in December 2009, but likewise was not taken up by the House.
Like HR 81, S 191 calls on DHS to undertake a study on the uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio Service communications in emergencies and disaster relief and then to submit a report to Congress no more than 180 days after the bill becomes law. The study shall:
- Include a review of the importance of Amateur Radio emergency communications in furtherance of homeland security missions relating to disasters, severe weather and other threats to lives and property in the United States, as well as recommendations for enhancements in the voluntary deployment of Amateur Radio licensees in disaster and emergency communications and disaster relief efforts and improved integration of Amateur Radio operators in planning and furtherance of the Department of Homeland Security initiatives.
- Identify impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service communications, such as the effects of unreasonable or unnecessary private land use regulations on residential antenna installations; and make recommendations regarding such impediments for consideration by other federal departments, agencies and Congress.
In conducting the study, S 191 directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to “utilize the expertise of stakeholder entities and organizations, including the Amateur Radio, emergency response and disaster communications communities.”