President Signs CB Enforcement Bill
NEWINGTON, CT, Nov 29, 2000--President Bill Clinton has signed legislation that permits the enforcement of certain FCC Citizens Band regulations by state and local governments. Amateur Radio operators are exempt from the provisions of the law, now PL 106-521.
Congressional lawmakers saw the measure as a way to give a voice to those experiencing radio frequency interference resulting from illegal CB radio operation. The FCC will not yield its authority to regulate Citizens Band or other radio services, however.
In short, the measure authorizes states and localities to enact laws that prohibit the use of unauthorized CB equipment--consistent with FCC regulations. This would include the use of high-power linear amplifiers or equipment that was not FCC-certificated (formerly called "type-accepted").
Specifically, the bill enables state or local regulation over the "use of Citizens Band radio equipment not authorized by the Commission" and "the unauthorized operation of Citizens Band radio equipment" between 24 and 35 MHz. FCC-licensed stations in any radio service--including the Amateur Service--are excluded from such state or local enforcement, and state or local laws enacted under this legislation must identify this exemption.
Anyone affected by the enforcement of such legislation could appeal to the FCC if they believed the state or local government had overstepped its authority under the new law. Any applicable state or local law would not preclude the FCC from enforcing regulations in a given case at the same time.
The new law also says the FCC shall "provide technical guidance to state and local governments regarding the detection and determination of violations" of any regulations localities might enact.
The bill--HR.2346 is the House version; it was S.2767 in the Senate--actually is the old Senate "Feingold bill" from several sessions ago. After introducing his original version a few years back, Wisconsin Sen Russell Feingold requested assistance from the ARRL to rewrite the measure to ensure that licensed hams could not be affected, that the bill featured a wealth of "due process" provisions, and that the concept of federal preemption over telecommunication activities wouldn't be compromised. The bill signed by the President is nearly identical to the Feingold bill.
The bill's sponsor, Rep Vernon Ehlers of Michigan said Amateur Radio operators encouraged him to introduce the measure in the House last year. Ehlers maintained that the local hams asked him to support the bill because of the bad rap they were getting from illegal CBers using high-power linear amplifiers that resulted in TV and telephone interference while the CBers involved hid behind federal preemption.
Ehlers says that when he was contacted initially by a frustrated constituent who had been experiencing TV, radio and cordless telephone interference, he thought the problem was an isolated incident. The CBer in question was using an illegal 100-W amplifier, he said, and the FCC told his constituent that it did not have the personnel to enforce CB lawbreakers around the country. Ehlers says he introduced his bill as a result.
As did Feingold before him, Ehlers asked the ARRL to review his measure to ensure that it would not unintentionally harm Amateur Radio.
The bill was amended in the Senate, which made a specific change requested by the American Trucking Association. The final version contains language with respect to CB gear aboard a "commercial motor vehicle" (as defined in Title 49, §31101 of the US Code) requiring that state or local authorities have probable cause that the vehicle or its operator was in violation of the regulations before they attempt to enforce such a statute. On the House floor, Ehlers said truckers were "worried about perhaps being harassed by improper use of the law."
During discussion of the bill on the House floor--as reported in The Federal Register--one member spoke of "rogue operators" whose routine CB radio operation at excessive power levels left victims "helpless" to defend themselves. "When these operators boost their CB power levels, it often causes bleeding into nearby frequencies," the congressman said.
The bill passed the House under suspension in September, and passed the Senate at the end of October under unanimous consent. The measure went to President Clinton for his signature on November 14.
A copy of the new legislation is available on the ARRLWeb.
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