Licensing on the Offensive
State and local regulation of low-voltage contractors is on the rise as the custom industry expands.
By Janet Pinkerton
There's nothing sexy about low-voltage licensing or certification—until, that is, someone tells you your state or local government is going to put you out of operation because you're not properly licensed to do low-voltage A/V installation.
So notes Mitchell Klein, co-founder of management consultant firm StayTuned. Klein chairs the Government Affairs & Public Policy Action Team at the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA).
CEDIA, along with other organizations like the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA) and the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA), are monitoring and seeking to address the slow but steady escalation of state and local government efforts to impose and enforce low-voltage licensing requirements.
What's driving the move to regulate low-voltage contractors? Theories are legion and interrelated, ranging from the self-interests of the unions (telecommunications and electrical) to the interests of state and local governments in protecting constituents, controlling liability issues and/or raising revenues for government coffers.
However, everyone Custom Retailer interviewed for this article agreed that the spike in low-voltage installation activity—in new construction, especially—and the overall broadening of the install market is drawing more government attention to the issue.
SBCA has started to compile information about these regulations by state and is making that database available to its members, says Steve Hill, the organization's vice president of training and technology. SBCA has found thus far that 14 states have some form of low-voltage/limited power licensing. However, Hill notes, this issue is addressed on a county or local level in a number of other states.
By SBCA's reckoning, the low-voltage/limited power licensing occurs in these states, in some cases by county: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida (a county license may also be required), Louisiana, Maryland (licensed by county), Minnesota, Missouri (St. Louis County), Nevada, Rhode Island, Virginia (for jobs over $1,000), Washington and Wyoming.