Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Amateur Radio - Maryland laws

This message is for information only. No action is needed at this time.

You may recall that early this year the General Assembly considered Senate Joint Resolution 2, Amateur Radio - Support and Encouragement. It passed the Senate 46-0, thanks to an outstanding panel of witnesses in the Senate hearing and strong support from the amateur community. The bill made no progress in the House, despite vigorous support from the Amateur community. The Baltimore Amateur Radio Club's legislative affairs team met with House Speaker Busch several weeks ago, and he explained that the House feels that resolutions are a poor way to make public policy -- bills are preferable.

Sen. Katherine Klausmeier and Del. Wade Kach are planning to introduce a bill in the upcoming General Assembly session containing the following provisions:

(a) The governing documents of homeowners associations (single-family and townhouse communities) adopted after Sept 30, 2006 must contain a specific statement that assigns sole authority over Amateur Radio equipment to FCC and local government. (b) Existing homeowners associations may not amend their documents on or after October 1, 2006 to further restrict or prohibit Amateur Radio equipment.

Our strategy from a year ago has not changed; this is the bill that the team expected to have introduced at this time if SJ2 passed. Speaker Busch found nothing objectionable in the 2006 bill, but urged us to explain it to all the groups that may be interested and if possible incorporate their views, before it is introduced.

We wanted to start with the simplest possible legislation that would do some good right away. This legislation is NOT retroactive – it does not affect existing covenants or rules. It stops the spread of antenna prohibitions, but has no effect over the existing ones. This is because we have been told that retroactivity would make this bill unlikely to pass. It does not affect condos because they are far more complex, with the common property intermingled with the residents' property -- some condos may own the interiors of walls, some may own balconies, all probably own the roofs and all surrounding land.

This bill removes the authority of the HOA over amateur antennas and related structures, but does not add to the existing authority of local government. PRB-1 and P.L. 103-408 now require local government to accommodate Amateur Radio reasonably. PRB-1 requires the minimum practicable regulation to achieve a legitimate purpose. Experience with this bill will guide future legislative efforts.

The 2006 session begins in about 60 days. Between now and then we intend to do two things: (1) get the views of groups that may be affected, including, of course, as many Amateur Radio clubs as possible, and (2) acquire written statements of support for the legislation from educators, emergency managers, and others around the state. I will send more information on item (2) as soon as I develop the format for the statements. I will also let you know if the bill changes significantly. The only thing you need to do now is decide whether to invite me to visit your club and when. After the sesssion starts in mid-January, there will be more for you to do. Your support for SJ2 last winter was widely praised.


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