Now that the ARRL’s new Legislative Issues Advocacy Fund is in place, ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB — who proposed the fund — hopes it will fuel a heightened campaign of congressional advocacy on issues important to Amateur Radio. On behalf of the members of his Division, Lisenco earlier this year presented ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, with an inaugural $4500 Fund donation, which she matched. The primary goal of the ARRL Legislative Issues Advocacy Fund is educational, Lisenco explained.
“We want to heighten Amateur Radio’s visibility in Congress and to establish its brand in the minds of today’s lawmakers, so we don’t have to be reactive when it comes to our relationship with the federal government,” Lisenco said. “It’s not enough just to have a Spectrum Defense Fund. We must be recognized as effective advocates for Amateur Radio in Congress.”
The immediate focus of the Legislative Issues Advocacy Fund will be the recently introduced “Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015,” officially known as H.R. 1301. US Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) introduced the bill March 4 with seven Republican and five Democratic co-sponsors. Last summer Kinzinger sponsored an essentially identical piece of legislation, which died at the end of the 113th Congress.
“We’re going all out for this bill,” Lisenco said. “Last year, we got a late start and still picked up 69 co-sponsors. This time, we’re starting early and have the entire congressional session to get this done. In addition to getting as many co-sponsors as we can in the US House, we’ll be trying to get a companion bill going in the US Senate. But this effort will take money.”
If Congress approves H.R. 1301, and it is signed by the president, the legislation would compel the FCC to amend the Part 97 Amateur Service rules to apply the three-part test of the PRB-1 federal pre-emption policy to include homeowners’ association regulations and deed restrictions, often referred to as “covenants, conditions, and restrictions” (CC&Rs). At present, PRB-1 only applies to state and local zoning laws and ordinances. The FCC has been reluctant to extend the same legal protections to private land-use agreements without direction from Congress.
Lisenco stressed that the Legislative Issues Advocacy Fund is not simply for this particular piece of legislation and that additional actions on the part of Congress or federal regulators could also affect Amateur Radio.
“We have to have an ongoing relationship with members of Congress and their staff members,” he said. “They need to know that Amateur Radio is alive and well, and flourishing in the 21st century.” Lisenco pointed out that there are many more licensees today than during the 1950s and 1960s — which some consider the Golden Age of Amateur Radio. “The Golden Age of Amateur Radio is today,” he said. “We’re experimenting with cutting-edge technology, and we provide a service to the community.”
But, he added, if the League does not take steps now to ensure Amateur Radio’s future, “there may be no future.”