Signs of the Times - June 2013 - (Page 104)
By Wade Swormstedt
“The core question is: Should a sign company be
allowed to sub out the electrical connection of a sign?”
Should sign companies be allowed to subcontract the hookup?
The core questionsthe electrical connection of a sign?
are: Should a sign company be
allowed to sub out
If so, who should be responsible if something goes
wrong, the sign company or the subcontractor? And
should that responsibility be for just the installation,
or for everything concerning the sign?
Since March 5, Texas House Bill 1352 and parallel
Senate Bill 803 have probably been much more hotly
debated in sign-industry social media than on the state
senate floor. In both versions, the bill is described as “an
act relating to an exemption for certain persons who sell
signs from the requirement to be licensed as an electrician.”
Currently (and as of last year), under Texas law, any
sign company can sell an electric sign. However, to sell
the subsequent installation, that company must employ
a licensed electrician on either a seasonal, part-time or
full-time basis. And a licensed electrician can only
officially be claimed by one company. It can’t sub out
electrical installation (although a general contractor
could). Both bills seek to somewhat ease that restriction.
Electric and non-electric-sign companies are at odds.
Lonnie Stabler chairs the Electrical Sign Task Force
appointed by the Texas Dept. of Licensing and Regulation
(TDLR) to report safety issues and industry concerns,
and provide technical input to TDLR and the Electrical
Safety and Licensing Advisory Board. He says state
electrical licensing for sign work has evolved since
2003, when the Texas Sign Assn. (TSA) and the electric
groups (IEC, IBEW and IAEI) collectively sought an
alternative to each municipality having its own electricallicense requirements. State Licensing Statue Chapter
1305 of the occupations code was subsequently passed.
Various iterations have followed. Regarding current
Texas law, Stabler outlined, “In 2011, after much discussion
between the advisory board, TDLR, the Licensing and
Regulatory Commission, as well as State legal staff, it
was determined that those persons selling turnkey sign
projects [including design, manufacture, installation
and service] would be required to obtain an electrical
sign contractor’s license. Those companies, individuals
and agents affected were given almost a full year to
comply with this corrected ruling.”
Catherine Monson, the CEO of Fastsigns, the Carrollton,
TX-based sign franchise, sees it differently. She says
there are approximately 1,500 sign companies in Texas,
but fewer than 200 licensed, electric-sign companies.
She says she’s contacted non-electric sign companies
throughout the state and has received responses from
350 in forming an unofficial, quasi-coalition.
Monson says the hiring cost would range from $1,600
to $5,000 a month. “For a sign company whose electrical
104 SIGNS OF THE TIMES / JUNE 2013 / www.signweb.com
work totals, on average, 5% to 7% of its total revenue,
an incremental annual expense of $19,200 to $60,000 is
both unreasonable and unaffordable in order to be able
to sell an electrical sign. We need a bill that allows us
to subcontract the electrical sign work; we would
only encounter the expense when we actually sold an
Stabler asserts, “With approximately 12,000 plus master
electricians or master sign electricians in Texas, and nearly
half not employed by anyone, qualified candidates abound,
many of whom are retired and in search of a part-time
job. Requirements include minimum liability insurance
of $600,000, carrying workers’ compensation insurance
[or suitable alternative] and paying an annual $115 license
fee. These requirements aren’t excessive and are certainly
doable for even the smallest companies.”
Accountability is primarily the rub.
Generally, Stabler said unlicensed companies don’t
want to be held accountable. Speaking on behalf of TSA
(whose executive director, Leona Stabler, is Lonnie’s
wife), Lonnie Stabler said he’s fine with language that
would require non-licensed companies to list a series of
potential installers when they submit a permit application.
And he said he’d agree to the non-licensed sign company
passing off responsibility to the subcontractor.
“But as originally proposed, the bill would only have
said the unlicensed contractor couldn’t handle the actual
installation,” Stabler said. “There was no provision that
whomever they subbed it out to was qualified. Not
only would the unlicensed sign company not be responsible, there would be no way to trace any problems
to the actual installer.”
Monson counters, “The real objective is to maintain
the monopoly created by the TDLR’s new interpretation
of the existing law in 2012. I find it odd they’re fighting
these bills so vociferously, in that these electrical sign
companies are likely the companies we will subcontract
the electrical work to on electrical signs we sell.”
At face value, their comments preclude a conflict.
Each told me they want to insure that only licensed
electrical sign contractors perform electric-sign installations in Texas. Personally, that’s my only concern.
And, of course, the topic is relevant anywhere.
One Texas sign man confessed to me he’s subbed
out electric sign work. For Texas’ immediate future,
this issue probably is a moot point. The Texas Legislature
only meets in odd years, and only from January to
May 28. So, by the time you read this . . .
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - June 2013
Signs of the Times - June 2013
Profiling Media for Purpose
Sign Museum News
Enter ST’s 7th Annual Vehicle Graphics Contest!
The Reality of Your Surroundings
The Great ’scapes
Digital Printers at ISA
It’s a Jungle in Here
Signs of the Times - June 2013