Legislative Report July 2021
Here are highlights of legislative activity that could impact the electronic security and life safety industry.
Federal Legislative Summary – July 2021
Congress continued to wrangle over infrastructure in July. It seemed most of the news coming out of the beltway was in the “one step forward, two steps back” vein. In the meantime, other legislation is being introduced that we are monitoring and warrants your attention.
H.R. 4967 has no text to read online as of yet, but the short summary provides that it will amend federal career and technical education statutes to raise public awareness for skilled trade programs. We will take a closer look once text becomes available.
A bill we would hope for the sake of residents in federally funded or subsidized housing complexes does not move in Congress is H.R. 4360. This bill would prohibit the use of any technology that would enable facial recognition on federally funded or subsidized housing units or buildings with dwelling units. The impact would hamper law enforcement efforts to identify and prosecute criminals identified through facial recognition, thus exposing residents to higher victimization without justice. The narrative from members of Congress and many state legislatures that support legislation banning facial recognition is based on a faulty narrative that facial recognition is racially biased in its outputs.
While the technology continues to improve, the suggestion that facial recognition targets women and people of color is baseless. While everyone agrees proper “guardrails” are needed for biometric identification from a personal privacy perspective, it is counterproductive to the proper discussion of privacy to malign the technology as intrinsically racist. We explored and discussed this issue two years ago and the facts have not changed. We will monitor H.R. 4360 and engage members of Congress if it becomes necessary.
State Legislative Summary – July 2021
July is not a typically heavy month for legislation in many states, but there was considerable activity last month by Governors who signed 30 bills we are watching.
The most notable bills included bills from Delaware, Missouri, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Delaware SB 93 was substituted for Senate Substitute 1 and was signed by the Governor on August 4, 2021. This is the consumer protection bill that provides new provisions governing automatic renewal provisions on consumer contracts. The substitute language that was signed by the Governor differs from SB 93 by extending the length of covered contracts from 6 months to 12 months. It also adds audio disclosure to the definition of “clearly and conspicuously” and removes the provision stating that a cancellation that is in the same medium as the medium used to enter the contract is considered “cost effective, timely, and easy to use.” It also specifies that a consumer who signs up for a covered contract online must be able to cancel online. The substitute eliminates the requirement that businesses notify consumers the date at which the contract will automatically renew if not canceled and establishes a right to cure.
Missouri SB 26 was enacted on July 14, 2021 and it will prohibit local governments from requiring separate permits for the installation of battery-charged fences in addition to an alarm system permit. It will also prohibit local governments from imposing installation requirements or prohibiting the use of these systems. Georgia SB 182 is a substantially similar bill related to battery-charged fences that was enacted on July 1, 2021.
Missouri SB 51 was also enacted in July and it will protect businesses from civil liability related to COVID claims as long as it meets the conditions outlined in the bill. South Carolina SJR 0147 is another enacted bill that provides businesses with limited civil liability protection from COVID-related claims as long as certain conditions are met.
Connecticut SB 1030 provides for long-term care residents or their representatives to install video surveillance systems designed to protect the residents from abuse. This bill was enacted on July 13th.
A bill in Maine impacting the use of facial recognition became law on July 1, 2021 without the Governor’s signature. LD 1585 (HP 1174) will prohibit public employees or agencies from using facial surveillance systems unless it is needed to identify an individual who committed a “serious crime”, is needed to protect or locate a missing or endangered person, or performing duties authorized by other statutes.
A bill in Pennsylvania puts a new twist on the many “right to repair” bills we have seen in states across the country. HB 1757 would require that digital equipment manufacturers create a “repairability score” that consumers could use to determine the difficulty in self-diagnosing and self-repairing electronic equipment using a matrix of criteria outlined in the bill.