CEDIA members share what inspired them to advocate for their industry, the results of their work, and what they think everyone should know about CEDIA’s advocacy efforts.
Andrew Ard, MAXAWARE, Member of CEDIA Government Affairs Working Group, Former board member
Will Breaux, iconic.systems – Electrical code issue for the City of Houston
Paul Epstein, Current Marketing – Low-voltage licensing in Arizona
Ken Erdmann, Erdmann Electric, CEDIA staff member – Electrical licensing in Utah
Bill Skaer, Bill Skaer & Associates, founding CEDIA member- Alarm licensing and Electrical licensing issues in Texas
What inspired you to advocate for the residential technology industry?
Ard: I can't think of another industry I could go into that has more change and evolution. We’re trying to keep ahead of the National Electrical Code changes and how that's going to affect the work of integrators and the relationship with electricians. We're moving toward an industry classification of integrator to better define the work we do.
Breaux: The issues impact every integrator and need attention from people in the industry. For the Houston issue, the timing was right with the Houston City Council meeting and the CEDIA Tech Summit in Houston, so I offered to speak up about it. I spoke in several sessions and in the group expo hall. It was important enough that everyone at that event and beyond needed to be aware of the state of the local industry.
Epstein: We need representation in the government. In Arizona, they were attempting to make a change to what unlicensed people could do. Darren brought it to my attention, and it raised the visibility of Current Marketing in the market. Community dealers were totally unaware this was going on, just as I would have been if CEDIA didn't bring it to my attention.
Erdmann: I've been in the business since 1978 and joined CEDIA as a full-time remote employee in 2019. When I first learned about CEDIA’s government affairs, I got really interested. I figured advocacy is why we survive as an industry: because of the work they do there, the work Darren does.
Skaer: I first got a chance to work with Darren, as one of CEDIA’s key staff members, working with the ethics committee a long time ago. Getting to know him over a long period of time, I have learned so much about what’s going on in and around government affairs.
What was the outcome of your advocacy?
Ard: We’re working on alliances, as well as pushing away detractors. In Houston for example, we were able to come alongside a networking group and explain that what they were doing was not conflicting with electricians. It added numbers, which gave greater weight in having the city council paying attention to us.
Breaux: This one was a win. A normal city council meeting might have a one-page agenda with a list of speakers. This meeting agenda was more than three pages because of those who volunteered to testify. My three minutes of speaking time turned into a Q&A about technology. Council members appreciated the ability to turn a high-tech conversation into something everyone could understand. Since then, the Council has asked that I be on their special committee as a stakeholder in the issue so I can help shape the permitting exemptions for our industry.
Epstein: In Arizona, the electrical board changed the language in the proposed law. Integrators were happy they could still use the fact that they were licensed. To get a low-voltage license in Arizona, you have to have proof of liability insurance and must have been in business for a year, so there are hoops to jump through. People worked together and the legislation made sense to the industry.
Erdmann: In Utah, the electrical board determines the scope of work for the electrical community. A few years ago, they proposed a change to restrict the exemptions of non-electricians doing work to below 50 volts. The exemption would make it difficult for integrators to continue their work. After Darren got us up to speed, we made phone calls, bombarded the electrical board, and filed public comments about the changes. They withdrew several recommendations they’d given about the legal exemptions. We also got a law passed before the state legislature defining what electricians and integrators are. The electrical board doesn't have authority to make changes to these designations.
Skaer: We needed them to change one word, and that needed to be an “or” instead of an “and.” It was a very heated discussion back and forth. When it came time for a vote, we won 140 to 10, which was stunning. That gives you an idea how important it is to be able to have your voice heard.
What do you think is important for people to know about CEDIA’s advocacy efforts?
Ard: Understand the benefits of CEDIA include more than just training. There’s somebody advocating for what we do in the industry and going to bat for us about legislation and policies we wouldn’t know about without Darren’s advocacy work. By being involved the way I and others are, you learn what to look at and look for.
Breaux: CEDIA Government Affairs is working for us and our industry around the clock. Darren had access to information before me and was extremely helpful in keeping me up to date on the latest info. We know these low-voltage issues are happening all over, and CEDIA has the resources to help us wade through the ever-changing landscape of governmental involvement in our industry.
Epstein: CEDIA is constantly monitoring what's going on and staying on top of what's happening in every state. It's a member benefit that’s been invisible to members but impacts us all.
Erdmann: There's no return to CEDIA on the money they spend on government affairs except the fact that it keeps the industry alive and CEDIA members in business. A lot of outsiders criticize CEDIA without understanding that CEDIA is the sole reason they can continue to pursue their trade.
Skaer: Everything we're involved with legislatively is working for all of us. It's not just CEDIA members. We want people to join us and be a part of it, because we're working hard to keep them in business. If it’s $500 to join but you know you have someone watching your back legislatively all the time, that’s pretty cheap insurance and absolutely enough to justify the investment in your CEDIA membership.
Want to know more about how to safeguard your business and the industry from legislative changes? Visit cedia.net/advocacy. Your voice can be the difference between being able to do what you love or being out of a job.