August 1996 - Volume 15, Issue 8


Many citizens of the US probably feel that most laws are passed after careful and deliberate discussion by interested parties and the legislative bodies that pass the laws. Oh, for a perfect world!

Unfortunately, the process at the state level is often the result of a old boy alliance driven by money between members of the legislature and the lobby fraternity with the concerned public often unaware of anything that is being considered until after the fact

A recent bill introduced in the 1995 Texas legislature, HB 713, the Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies Act, illustrates that the enactment of an obscure bill originally intended to meet one goal can in the rush to adjournment become a vehicle through which a lobbyist can completely change the nature of an industry and the competitive environment.

When HR 713 was introduced in the Texas House of Representatives, its stated purpose as indicated on the House Bill Analysis background and purpose document provided to each house member was

as a consumer protection law to license, and regulate the Private security and private investigators profession, and provide a penalty for those who practice without a license, (and)

to provide guidelines for continued education courses (that) will ensure that one is required to update their professional skills, such as applicable laws.

The legislation was assigned to the Public Safety committee which Keith Oakley of Terrell, who introduced the bill, chaired. The bill was passed out of committee without hearings and sent to the House floor for a vote and on May 3, 1995, it was passed by a non-record vote.


The bill was then sent to the Senate and was sponsored by J. E. "Buster" Brown from Lake Jackson. The Senate Bill Analysis background and purpose document showed

as a consumer protection law to license, and regulate the Private security and private investigators profession, and provide a penalty for those who practice without a license, (and)

to recognize, prepare, or administer continuing education programs for persons regulated by the board; and expands the licensing and registration application requirements of the board, (and)

by amending Subsections (3)-(5) and (31), and adding Subsections (33)-(36), to define "detection device", "personal protection authorization", "personal protection officer", and "peace officer". Redefines "investigations company", "guard company", and "alarm systems company".

HR 713 went through the Texas Senate unopposed without hearings. It passed the Senate on May 25, 1995 with amendments on a 31 yeas and 0 nays vote. The bill returned to the House and was voted on May 26, 1995 and passed on a non-record vote. The bill was returned to the House and Senate for corrections on the 28th and 29th of May and was again passed after corrections under an emergency provision of the legislature prior to being signed into law by Governor George W. Bush, Jr.

It was only a little change!

Section 33 was totally new and was inserted into the bill at the urging of Bob Leonard, a lobbyist for the Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. He worked with Senator Brown's assistant to insert the Section 33 language into the bill.

Section 33 states

(33) "Detection device" means an electronic device used as a part of a burglar or holdup alarm including any control, communications, motion detector, door or window switch, sound detector, vibrations detector, light beam, pressure mat, wiring, or similar device; or any electronic device used to limit access by persons into building structures or gate compounds, including any control, communications, motion detector, door or window switch, card or proximity readers, push-button keypad entry, gate entry device, door exit buttons, or similar device.

This change eliminates major competition from both locksmiths and fence & gate companies from the growing security access control market.

In fact, the revised Texas statute now requires even the inventors and engineers of devices being used in the security access market become employees of an "alarm systems company." A strict reading of HR 713 further implies that the inventors and engineers will have to become apprenticed for a period of two (2) years to an "alarm systems company" in order to qualify to meet the alarm systems licensing requirement and to continue work on their products. And if they don't comply, the inventors and engineers will be subject to a $4,000 fine and up to one year in prison for each count.

Most of the security products which were developed in the past were placed on a building structure while the product was in alpha, beta, or market test. In each of these instances, a strict reading of the Texas Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies Act could create a situation where that firm and its engineering and product service personnel would be guilty of a first degree felony.

With that conviction, the employee probably will lose their government security clearance. Many of those employees held extremely high clearances as they consulted and designed security installations dealing with prisons, airports, government institutions including overseas embassies, atomic reactors, missile silo's, nuclear submarines, etc.

Unintended (?) consequences of Section 33!

To point up some unintended aspects of this new law, consider the following circumstances for a moment.


The police have long complained about the high incidence of false alarms from alarm systems companies during the past 60 years. As more alarm systems were installed in businesses and residences, the increase in false alarms became a significant concern to law enforcement agencies. Some cities including Dallas estimated that they were spending between 15 and 20% of their officer patrol hours checking out alarms, of which 75% or more were false.

As always, the standard response to the false alarm problem was more licensing and regulation. The Dallas City Council passed a law in 1995 stating that the police would not respond to an alarm unless a valid permit was on file which required renewal for a fee every year. However, it is extremely doubtful that a significant reduction in false alarms has occurred.

The Alarm Industry problem - Myopia!

The earlier legislation to license and regulate the alarm industry was passed in an era of high false alarms. It also gained strength from existing alarm companies who were seeking to keep out a growing number of competitors as monitoring devices and techniques changed during the period after WWII. The goal of the burglar and fire alarm companies to limit competition continues with HR 713.

HR 713 was introduced to increase the continuing education requirements for private investigators and alarm system personnel. Again, we have an industry which has not appreciably reduced its incidence of false alarms seeking to completely change the competitive environment by excluding from "electronic access control" the locksmith crafts and fence and gate companies which have been in existence for years. The bill as passed does something quite different to the security products industry.

The alarm industry is only one small part of the security industry!

The alarm industry simply refuses to understand that they are part of a security industry which includes locksmiths as well as gate and fence companies and many other components as well.

This latest attempt to exclude locksmiths and gate and fence companies from the burgeoning access control field (an industry that was largely invented by non alarm system people) shows what a powerful lobbyist, a compliant legislative aide, and a legislature bent on adjourning can accomplish to the detriment of a whole group of people who were not informed on any change that would seriously affect their welfare.

The locksmith, gate and fence companies were simply not afforded even the courtesy of a hearing on a vast change to their businesses. Moreover, many Senate and house members who voted for this measure had little or no idea of the nature of the changed bill, many believing that it only changed continuing educational requirements.

When things like this occur to a citizenry with regularity, it should surprise no politician that militia and radical organizations find support for their causes.

The act as written is probably unconstitutional as it affects people's livelihoods without due process. Several locksmiths are currently considering filing a lawsuit in federal court for a permanent injunction to prevent the enforcement of the bill.

Is the current HR 713 good for the citizens of Texas?

By restricting competition in the security products field, HR 713 is not good for the citizens of Texas if we truly believe in a competitive economy driven by the market place. On that basis alone, HR 713 is a flawed bill. The zealousness of certain investigative personnel of the Texas Board of Private Investigators in going after locksmiths and fence companies for not meeting the new language of HR 713 shows the extent to which the alarm industry and its friends in the regulatory agency will go to take over the burgeoning access control industry by restricting legitimate competition.

HR 713 will probably be rewritten in the next legislature as several members of the Senate and House have indicated support for changing the bill. The only thing that the current act will truly accomplish is to widen the existing gulf between the locksmith, gate and fence people on one hand and the alarm systems companies on the other.

Wake up - - its' the security industry, dummy!

Both sides need to wake up and discover that they are part of the security industry. To provide better security products & protection for their customers, they desperately need each other as partners, not enemies.

But then -- 'Tis Only My Opinion!

Fred Richards
August 1996

This issue of 'Tis Only My Opinion was copyrighted by Adrich Corporation in August 1996.

It is intended to provoke thinking, then dialogue among its readers. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.

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