Signs of the Times - June 2013 - (Page 104)

EDITORIALLY SPEAKING By Wade Swormstedt “The core question is: Should a sign company be allowed to sub out the electrical connection of a sign?” Tex-tricity Accountability 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 / 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 electrical sign.” 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
ST Update
Tech Update
Profiling Media for Purpose
Vinyl Apps
Strictly Electric
LED Update
Software Update
Technology Review
Technology Review
Sign Museum News
New Products
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
Advertising Index
Editorially Speaking

Signs of the Times - June 2013