ALA Battles State and Bi-National Legislation
April 13, 2010 - 7:40am

The American Lighting Assn. (ALA) has been busy battling potentially threatening legislative actions pending at both bi-national (United States and Canada) and state levels, and ensuring that the best interests of the lighting industry are considered when legislators vote on bills.

Lighting retailers stand to be impacted by these motions on several fronts, posing additional challenges for showrooms trying to succeed in an already volatile economic climate.

ALA President Dick Upton identifies the organization’s key focus right now as its push to make the quality of light and proper application of lighting — vital issues often overlooked when discussing energy efficiency — front and center as legislators shape energy efficiency policies.“It’s our major thrust right now,” Upton says. “Saving energy sounds terrific, but we also have to make sure they are asking the right questions. ‘Is this going to impact the quality of the light?’ I don’t see these two concepts as incompatible.”

At press time, ALA was gearing up to release a six-page brochure (shown here) urging legislators and regulators to consider quality of lighting in their energy efficiency policies.

ALA also has channeled its energy into fighting new legislation introduced in several states that would limit the ability of showrooms to provide lighting design and consultation services to customers, an ongoing effort. These interior design licensing acts are supported by some members of the interior design community and generally seek to limit interior design services, including lighting design, to those who have passed the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications (NCIDQ’s) interior design qualification exam.

Showrooms would be restricted in some states to providing lighting design to small residences only, excluding larger-scale and more profitable jobs, and to providing consultation in their retail locations only, hence hurting the retailers’ ability to do business freely, says Upton.

On an international level, new ceiling fan regulations in Canada state that fans or light kits manufactured as of Jan. 1, 2010, and imported into Canada or shipped inter-provincially must meet certain energy efficiency requirements: Ceiling fans with integrated lights that have total electrical power greater than 10W and at least one socket that is not pin-based must limit their total electrical power to less than or equal to 190W for the integrated lighting. The same goes for ceiling fan light kits with at least one socket that is not pin-based.

An energy efficiency report for each model must be submitted to Natural Resources (NRCan) prior to import for sale in Canada as required by Canada’s Energy Efficiency and Regulations. The energy performance of the products must be verified and bear a verification mark from certification bodies currently accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). ALA is currently working closely with NRCan and CSA on these standards, says Upton.

A third important action ALA is fighting is the Jan. 1 reinstatement of the 4.7 percent tariff exemption on ceiling fans imported into the United States from China. A tariff exemption was granted in 2004, but it expired at the end of 2009.

The organization had been pushing for the inclusion of ceiling fans on that tariff exemption in the final Senate bill passed in March 2010, but did not succeed. The ceiling fan industry met most of the criteria for tariff exemption, but the cost to the U.S. government — more than the $500,000 threshold — was simply too high for the products to qualify under U.S. Customs regulations, he explains. “It’s a big hit to the ceiling fan manufacturers. Who’s got excess dollars today?” says Upton.

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