When asked why he robbed banks, the infamous burglar Willie Sutton replied, “Go where the money is…and go there often.”

The Security Industry Association’s (SIA) 2008 legislative priorities are guided by a similar philosophy. The SIA is working to support initiatives that lead to increased spending on electronic physical security solutions by U.S. and international government agencies, hospitals, port facilities, public safety systems, schools, agribusinesses and end-users within various markets. We will achieve this by securing direct congressional appropriations or through the enactment of legislation empowering local governments to buy SIA member products.

A key component of our 2008 agenda is ensuring Congress lives up to the promises made in the SAFE Port Act and fully funds $400 million next year in port security grants. In addition, SIA will push for full funding of the $3.3 billion authorized in the “Improving America’s Security Act of 2007” for new public transit investments in access control, video surveillance, perimeter security and fire suppression solutions.

SIA also will fight for $50 million in annual funding for the Securing Our Schools grant program and for passage of legislation (H.R. 1409) providing financial assistance to colleges and universities for smoke detectors, fire alarms and extinguishing systems.

Our legislative agenda proposes to not only strengthen existing federal security programs, but also to lead the industry’s effort in establishing two grant programs for hospital and wastewater treatment facility security. Hospitals across the country must protect those they provide care for everyday. Unfortunately, unlike the port and public safety transit security grant programs, the federal government does not administer a program that can be primarily used for securing and monitoring hospital facilities. That’s why SIA is collaborating with the International Association of Healthcare Safety and Security (IAHSS) on a legislative proposal to promote patient and facility security at more than 5,000 hospitals nationwide.

Many SIA members are also interested in the wastewater treatment facility security. Today there are more than 16,000 wastewater treatment facilities across the country vulnerable to a terrorist attack. We’re working to strengthen opportunities for our members within this market by pursuing the enactment of a new program that would provide $200 million annually in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants for this purpose.

Our legislative agenda also places emphasis on ensuring that the federal tax code provides incentives for investment rather than imposing unfair burdens upon contractors. Take for example our support for the Agriculture Business Security Tax Credit Act of 2007. This initiative would provide a tax credit for agribusinesses that make access control and perimeter security investments, and is supported by a large coalition of agribusiness trade associations.

As we work to create this incentive in the tax code, SIA will continue its active participation within the Tax Withholding Relief Coalition. Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Coalition secured the support of more than 230 members of the House of Representatives for legislation (H.R. 1023) that would repeal the requirement that federal, state and local governments withhold three percent of payments made to contractors.

As evidenced by this withholding requirement, contractors continue to receive considerable scrutiny by Congress. However, we successfully advocated for the unanimous passage of legislation (H.R. 3179) to extend cooperative purchasing to GSA Schedule 84 by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Notably, the Local Preparedness Acquisition Act is one of the few pieces of legislation passed by this key committee in Congress that provides business growth opportunities for security vendors. This legislation remains a high priority for SIA in 2008.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that many SIA members remain intimately involved with federal agency implementation of HSPD-12 and the TWIC. We’ve learned from past experiences with these initiatives that our industry needs to be better positioned to advise the government on future directives.

The best way to accomplish this goal is to support legislation establishing a federal “physical security advisory committee” to counsel the White House and Department of Homeland Security on the potential impact of government directives. We must also ensure that federal government end-users have the proper education and training to protect our government facilities. That is why SIA will work with its allies to reform the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) physical security training program.

SIA has set ambitious goals for the upcoming year.