On May 23, the US House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that included the language of the Amateur Radio Parity Act (HR 555) cleared the House. The following day, a fiscal year 2019 Financial Services appropriations bill also containing Parity Act language cleared the Financial Services and General Government subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations and now is working its way through the full Appropriations Committee. As a result, the Parity Bill has attracted some attention from outside the Amateur Radio and homeowners association communities.
ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, who chairs the ARRL Board’s Ad Hoc Legislative Advocacy Committee, called attention to a recent Politico article that addresses the challenges the bill faces.
On May 25, Politico reported, “Lawmakers are making a multi-pronged push to drive the bipartisan Amateur Radio Parity Act through Congress and finally bypass objections from top Senate Commerce [Committee] Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida, whose allegiance to his state’s homeowners’ associations drove his panel to yank the bill from consideration last fall. The legislation, H.R. 555, would direct the FCC to let Amateur Radio operators get around private rules, like those imposed by some HOAs, that keep them from putting up radio antennas.”
Politico cited a spokeswoman for the US House sponsor of the Parity Act, Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who told the journal that Kinzinger is “hopeful that Senator Nelson will see its value.”
“When disaster strikes and the power goes out, like when Hurricane Irma hit Senator Nelson’s home state of Florida back in September, Amateur Radio operators become critical to emergency response efforts,” Kinzinger’s spokeswoman said.
At this point, it’s unclear how the Parity Act language or legislation will fare in the US Senate. The measure’s Senate sponsor, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), told Politico that it would suit him to see the Senate follow the lead of the House in the matter. “I think we’ve done enough that Senator Nelson’s concerns should have been answered,” Wicker was quoted as saying.
Wicker and Nelson are both senior members of the Armed Services Committee, which will oversee the NDAA.
ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, stressed earlier this month that the Parity Act “does entitle each and every Amateur Radio operator living in a deed restricted community to erect an effective outdoor antenna. Full stop. That is the principal benefit of this legislation.” Imlay pointed out that tens of thousands of ham radio licensees at present cannot erect any outdoor antenna at all. “This [bill] enables them in the same way PRB-1 has enabled hams to address unreasonably restrictive zoning ordinances during the past 33 years,” Imlay said.