Legislative Update – Fall 2015

When writing for this issue of our News and Notes, I thought it would be a good idea to review some questions and issues discussed at the League’s recent Board of Directors Meeting.

The main question raised was, what happened to Senate Bill 616 the proposed legislation to change the electrical laws of Maryland.

Sad to say, the bill was withdrawn. Even after several meetings where concessions were made to help the proposed legislation become more agreeable to various groups of our industry, the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) decided not to support the bill.

It seems that DLLR thought a 59-page bill was too complicated for those newly appointed to the department. They felt more time was needed so they could evaluate the effects the bill could have on DLLR operations if it should pass.

The proposed legislation would have established:
* Definitions for the different classifications of electrical workers;
* A statewide journeyperson license;
* A statewide, up-to-date edition of the NEC as the state’s electrical code to be used and enforced in all jurisdictions; and
* A strengthened, continuing education program statewide, so a skilled, well-trained workforce would be installing electrical services.

Since these concepts would advance the electrical industry and provide benefits and safety for the general public, the ELM Board of Directors decided to continue its efforts to pass this legislation. Therefore, ELM will work with DLLR, legislators and members of our industry to once again present a bill for consideration next year, which will better serve all those involved.

The League has also added its voice to keep the uniform, statewide building code in effect as it is now. We are opposed to individual jurisdictions trying to amend themselves out of its authority as is the case with Washington County. We think that special conditions can be handled by local amendments. However, these special rules must always assure the life safety and fire protection of the citizens and visitors in those jurisdictions.

Discussion at the Board of Directors meeting also centered on the subject of where will the next generation of electrical workers come from when the experienced mechanics and skilled workers of today retire or leave the industry. It seems most high schools and other institutions of learning have abandoned their vocation guidance and training courses. They are no longer pointing young people toward the crafts or trades as a way to achieve a great living standard. There seems to be a lack of interest by educators and young people to start a career or vocation where hands as well as brains must be used. It seems that they only look at a trade as “just a job.”

Maybe as leaders in the electrical industry, we should write the job description for our future electrical workers. Why not challenge the young people of today to join our craft, trade, industry? It could allow them to:
* Make a great living;
* Enroll in great trade schools at reasonable costs;
* Have job security (there will always be demand for a reliable and “good” electrician);
* Have the opportunity to use their brains and ingenuity in problem solving:
* Know there will always be room to learn about something new (think about wind and solar power technologies, and hybrid energy systems);
* Have the satisfaction of seeing positive results of all their efforts; and
* Play a key, daily role in protecting the public’s safety.

Yes, electrical service is a career, a vocation to be proud to be part of, and a field that’s worth talking up. We should participate in activities that foster interest in the electrical industry.

Let me know your opinions and other ideas on these topics. They are important to the future of our industry.

Sincerely,

Gilbert Thompson
Legislative Committee Chairperson, Electric League of Maryland