On Wednesday, April 29, Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) introduced HR 2160, the Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2009 in the US House of Representatives. This bill, if passed, would "promote and encourage the valuable public service, disaster relief, and emergency communications provided on a volunteer basis by licensees of the Federal Communications Commission in the Amateur Radio Service, by undertaking a study of the uses of Amateur Radio for emergency and disaster relief communications, by identifying unnecessary or unreasonable impediments to the deployment of Amateur Radio emergency and disaster relief communications, and by making recommendations for relief of such unreasonable restrictions so as to expand the uses of Amateur Radio communications in Homeland Security planning and response." The bill has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
If enacted into law, HR 2160, would instruct the Secretary of Homeland Security to undertake a study and report its findings to Congress within 180 days. The study would spell out uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio communications in emergencies and disaster relief. The study shall:
· Include recommendations for enhancements in the voluntary deployment of Amateur Radio licensees in disaster and emergency communications and disaster relief efforts.
· Include recommendations for improved integration of Amateur Radio operators in planning and in furtherance of the Department of Homeland Security initiatives.
· Identify unreasonable or unnecessary impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio communications -- such as the effects of private land use regulations on residential antenna installations -- and make recommendations regarding such impediments.
· Include an evaluation of Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-104, 110 Stat 56 ).
· Recommend whether Section 207 should be modified to prevent unreasonable private land use restrictions that impair the ability of amateurs to conduct, or prepare to conduct, emergency communications by means of effective outdoor antennas and support structures at reasonable heights and dimensions for the purpose in residential areas.
The Secretary of Homeland Security shall utilize the expertise of the ARRL and shall seek information from private and public sectors for the study.
The bill currently has five co-sponsors: Madeleine Bordallo (Guam), Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS). Representative Thompson currently serves as Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. Representatives Jackson-Lee, Lofgren and Kilroy are members of that committee.
"We understand that Representative Jackson-Lee was very impressed with the radio amateurs she encountered on a visit to an Emergency Operations Center in Houston during Hurricane Ike last September," said ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ. "We are grateful to her and to the five original co-sponsors for their support of Amateur Radio and the encouragement that their bill offers."
ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, concurred: "We are excited to have Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee introduce HR 2160. It is extremely encouraging to have the support of a number of original co-sponsors -- including several members of the House Homeland Security Committee -- who recognize the importance of Amateur Radio's long history of public service."