“The bill passes without objection.” With these words, amateur radio history was written on September 12, when the United States House of Representatives approved the law on the parity of radio amateurs, HR 1301 on a voice vote under a suspension of the rules. The focus of the campaign to enact the legislation now shifts to the US Senate. The House victory culminated many years of efforts by the ARRL to obtain legislation that would allow radio amateurs living in restricted-act communities to erect antennas that support amateur radio communication. The measure calls on the FCC to amend its Part 97 rules “to prohibit the application to amateur stations of certain private land use restrictions, and for other purposes.” While similar bills over the past few years have gained traction on Capitol Hill, it was only thanks to the overwhelming support of the amateur radio community for ARRL-led HR 1301 that a bill arrived. as far. However, the legislation faces significant hurdles in passing the US Senate.
“This is an important step in our efforts to enact legislation that will allow radio amateurs who live in deed-restricted communities to construct an effective outdoor antenna,” said ARRL President, Rick Roderick, K5UR. “Thank you to everyone for their help in this effort so far. We must now turn our full attention to getting the bill through the Senate.
ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, who chairs the ARRL Board of Directors’ Legislative Advocacy Committee, has been heavily involved in efforts to move HR 1301 forward. ‘a multi-year effort that finally sees the light,’ he said. “The passage of the bill in the House is a major achievement, due to the hard work of so many people – from the rank and file member to the leaders and administrators.”
Lisenco said now was not the time to rest on our laurels. “We are only halfway. The focus now is on our efforts in the Senate,” he said. “We are launching a massive email campaign in which we need each member to write to their two senators using our streamlined process. You will hear President Roderick and your trustees ask you to come to our ‘Rally Congress‘. Using your postal code, emails will be generated much like our recent letter campaign. You fill in your name and address and hit enter. Emails will be sent directly to your senators without you having to search their websites.
Lisenco said forwarding these emails to member senators is an essential part of the process. “These numbers matter! Please help us help you by being part of this effort,” he said.
As the amended bill provides that “community associations should fairly administer regulations for the use of private lands in the interest of their communities, while nevertheless permitting the installation and maintenance of effective outdoor amateur radio antennae. There are antenna designs and installations that can be compatible with the aesthetics and physical characteristics of terrain and structures in community associations while still allowing communications in amateur radio services.
During this week’s limited debate, the House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), thanked the ARRL and the Community Associations Institute (CAI) for reaching an agreement to make move the bill forward “in a bipartisan and very positive way.” He pointed out to his colleagues that amateur radio antennas are banned altogether in some areas.
“For some it’s just a nuisance,” Kinzinger said, “but for others — those who use their amateur radio license for life-saving emergency communications — a dangerous situation can be created by limiting their ability to establish effective communication for those who need it.”
Kinzinger said that in an emergency, hams can provide “a vital, vital function” when conventional communication systems are down. He also praised the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), a US Department of Defense-sponsored program staffed largely by volunteer radio amateurs that also supports emergency and disaster communication. .
Co-sponsoring U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT) also called for the bill to pass. “It’s not just a welfare bill,” Courtney said, recounting how Hurricane Sandy brought down the power grid, and “we’ve seen all the advanced communications that we take for granted…fall completely in the water”. Amateur radio volunteers provided real-time communication in the storm’s wake, he said, saying the legislation was a way to ‘rebalance things’ for radio amateurs who choose to live in neighborhoods restricted acts by allowing them to install “non-intrusive antennae”. ”
Courtney noted that he recently spoke with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and said Wheeler “strongly supports this legislation.”
Ahead of the vote, Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) also spoke in favor of the legislation, calling it a common-sense approach that would incorporate “fairness into the equation for amateur radio operators” in their relationships with homeowners associations.
The US Senate’s earlier version of the Amateur Radio Parity Act, S. 1685, is no longer in effect, and the Senate is expected to vote unanimously on the version of HR 1301 that was passed by the House on September 12. .