Industry Counters Maryland License Bill

By Neil Munro

Staff Writer

Computer industry executives are aggressively trying to squash a Maryland bill that would establish a licensing board for computer technicians.

"Whatever gets enacted in one state, gets passed around at the National Conference of State Legislatures and pops up in other states," said Bruce Hahn, a Washington-based lobbyist for the Computing Technology Industry Association. The association includes many small companies who make, service and sell computer components and software.

The Licensure of Computer Repair Technicians bill "may not make it through this time, but it will make it through next time," said a staff member for Delegate Joan Pitkin, D-Md., who introduced the bill.

Maryland's legislature will complete its session on April 8.

Once established, the board could levy an annual license fee of $110 or more on computer technicians in the state. The license fee, which would be paid by the employers, would be used to pay for the board, which would set standards for training of computer technicians throughout the state.

"If you have 100 technicians, that's an awful big burden on small businesses, said Stephen Rudik, owner of SDR Solutions Inc., a small computer support company based in Severna Park, Md.

Also, the law is too vague, perhaps causing the board to seek regulation over
network managers and hardware manufacturers, said Laura Nickerson, an executive at the six-person Annapolis Computers, Annapolis, Md.

The bill covers only hardware technicians, but includes all those who upgrade or repair any form of computer, whether it is a desktop, mainframe or even a computer within an automobile, according to a Maryland government analysis accompanying the legislation.

"The licensing requirements provided in the bill could increase the cost of doing business and could create new barriers to market entry for new small businesses," according to the analysis, which was prepared by
Shelley Finlayson in the state's Department of Fiscal Services.

To defeat the measure, Hahn hired Gary Alexander, a Maryland lobbyist who formerly served as Speaker Pro-Tem of the House of Delegates in Annapolis. The lobbying effort is needed because other states would likely replicate the bill once Maryland made it law, he said.

Rather than accept Pitkin's bill, the association wants to promote its own quality standard, dubbed the A Certification, Hahn said. The A Certification is voluntary and won't result in extra costs being passed on to industry and the consumer, Hahn said.

But "we could perhaps live with something less onerous" than Pitkin's bill, said Hahn.

However, "we think there is going to be [licensing] legislation in some states in some forms," despite the industry's lobbying efforts, he said.

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