ARRL is recommending that Amateur Radio be specifically excluded from a California statute prohibiting the use of “wireless communication devices” while driving. ARRL Southwestern Division Vice Director Marty Woll, N6VI, is taking point on the effort to revise the statute, known by its legislative bill number AB 1785. It was signed into law last September, and it took effect on January 1, amending §23123.5 of the state’s Vehicle Code.
The ARRL Board of Directors has unanimously adopted five legislative objectives for the 115th US Congress. The Board took the action when it met in Connecticut January 20-21. ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, chaired the session.
The first objective is to seek early congressional passage of the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2017, H.R. 555 and of any Senate companion bill that might be introduced. H.R. 555 cleared the House on January 23. The Board was told that specific instructions to the FCC on implementation of the bill would be included in the report language from Congress.
Just 10 days after being introduced, the 2017 Amateur Radio Parity Act legislation, H.R. 555, passed the U.S. House of Representatives this week on unanimous consent under a suspension of House rules. The bill’s language is identical to that of the 2015 measure, H.R. 1301, which won House approval late last summer after attracting 126 co-sponsors, but failed to clear the U.S. Senate last fall as the 114th Congress wound down. The new bill, again sponsored by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), was introduced on January 13 with initial co-sponsorship by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Rep. Greg Walden, W7EQI (R-OR), who chairs the influential House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
The FCC has turned down two petitions filed in 2016, each seeking similar changes in the Part 97 Amateur Service rules. James Edwin Whedbee, N0ECN, of Gladstone, Missouri, had asked the Commission to amend the rules to reduce the number of Amateur Radio operator classes to Technician, General, and Amateur Extra by merging remaining Novice class licensees into the Technician class and all Advanced class licensees into the Amateur Extra class. In a somewhat related petition, Jeffrey H. Siegell, WB2YRL, of Burke, Virginia, had requested that the FCC grant Advanced class license holders Morse code operating privileges equivalent to those enjoyed by Amateur Extra class licensees.
The Amateur Radio Parity Act, H.R. 1301, died an unbefitting death as the 114th Congress of the United States drew to a close today. After having passed the House of Representatives on a unanimous vote, the bill stalled in the Senate due to the intervention of only one member, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).
Over the course of the past year, Sen. Nelson has received thousands of e-mails, letters, and phone calls from concerned constituents asking for his support of H.R. 1301. Numerous meetings were held with his senior staff in an effort to move the legislation forward. Negotiations, which led to an agreement with the national association of homeowner’s associations and publicly supported by CAI and ARRL, were brushed aside by Sen. Nelson as irrelevant.
ARRL once again is calling on its members to urge their US Senators to support the Amateur Radio Parity Act (H.R. 1301) when it comes up in the Senate during the “lame duck” session of Congress that adjourns in mid-December. The House of Representatives approved the bill in September, but if the Senate does not follow suit, the bill will die, and the entire process will have to be repeated. ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, who chairs the ARRL Board’s Legislative Advocacy Committee and has been heavily involved in efforts to move H.R. 1301 forward, said today, “The clock is ticking!”
California has upped its game in cracking down on distracted driving, and radio amateurs there are concerned that a recent revision to the state’s Motor Vehicle Code could affect Amateur Radio mobile operation. The old law, which included an Amateur Radio exemption, already prohibited motorists from using electronic wireless communication devices to write, send, or read a text-based communication while in motion, unless the device was configured for voice-operated and hands-free operation. The revised law does not exempt Amateur Radio.
Recalling the earlier efforts of the FCC and telecommunications and utility interests to roll out “Broadband over Powerline” (BPL), the Amateur Radio community has been buzzing with questions about AT&T’s just-announced “AirGig” BPL plan to make broadband available via apparently similar technology. ARRL’s earlier anti-BPL campaign, and market forces, eventually led to the demise of the prior BPL initiative. ARRL Laboratory Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI, who spearheaded the earlier effort to quantify BPL’s threat to Amateur Radio’s HF spectrum and remains the resident expert on the subject, said this newest BPL incarnation should not pose an interference issue for radio amateurs.
An amended version of the Amateur Radio Parity Act, H.R. 1301, received a unanimous favorable report on July 13 from members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill now will go to the full House for consideration. Before reporting the bill out of committee, the panel first voted to accept the amended language “in the nature of a substitute.” Rep Greg Walden, W7EQI (R-OR), who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said the substitute bill represented “a good balance” following months of meetings, hard work, and compromise, and he recommended the measure to his colleagues.
Three more members of the US House of Representatives have stepped forward to cosponsor The Amateur Radio Parity Act, H.R. 1301. That brings the total to 123.
The latest to sign on are Reps Evan Jenkins (R-WV), Stephen Knight (R-CA), and Charles Boustany Jr (R-LA).
On a voice vote on February 11, the US House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep Greg Walden, W7EQI, sentto the full House Energy and Commerce Committee with a favorable report for further consideration.
H.R. 1301 would direct the FCC to extend its rules relating to reasonable accommodation of Amateur Service communications to private land-use restrictions, such as deed covenants, conditions, and restrictions.
More information on The Amateur Radio Parity Act is on the ARRL website.