The Regulatory Report
February 2013 - By Don Davis, Government Affairs Director
The 2013 session of the Washington state Legislature kicked off last month, and as an Association member, you are most likely aware that nothing is safe when the legislature is in session. So for the next couple of months your Association, along with the Building Industry Association of Washington and other business organizations, will attempt to safeguard our industry and seek ways for your businesses to thrive.
It will be a busy session with new legislators, a new governor and new department heads who monitor legislation and recommend what bills may eventually become law. Once again housing interests will be seeking the ability for builders to defer impact fees. We will also be running a bill that will standardize the way latecomer agreements are structured and trying to streamline the environmental review process that builders have to go through to achieve project approval.
We will also be playing a bit of defense. Some of the same issues we face every year will rear their ugly heads again. As usual, mandatory home warranties may surface, but it would be a daunting task for proponents to get that done this year based on the process to create a sound proposal. As far as impact fees go, there may be an attempt to expand their “definition,” which would allow these monies collected to pay for things other than infrastructure, like school buses and trails, which currently is illegal.
We expect a bill to add a $1 to every permit statewide to pay for the continued operation of the State Building Code Council. It seems like they need more money from taxpayers for their time, parking and other expenses while they’re making decisions on how to make the same taxpayers pay more through additional regulations.
There is also the potential for a big fight, which has been looming over our heads for some time now, over a bill we expect the fire officials to run, mandating automatic fire sprinklers in all single-family homes. Even though residential fires in new construction are rare and deaths caused by fires are swindling every year, fire officials cannot accept the fact that early detection is the best, most affordable way to save lives. Your Association will remain opposed to mandatory residential fire sprinklers.
Over the past several months, some legislators undertook two study efforts. One entails changes to environment review (mentioned above) that we have high hopes for, and the other is what we call “local government consolidation.” Throughout our region there are literally hundreds of sewer districts, water districts, etc. The list goes on and on. The study effort attempted to consider consolidating some of these districts and to try and standardize the way they operate, the fees they charge and the paperwork they require. One can imagine what a huge undertaking that would be. We are not expecting a lot to happen on that front for a while.
Finally, please make an attempt to watch for the information we send out in the coming weeks on all these issues. A lot of them have the potential to affect your business and your bottom line. Please inform your employees and subcontractors of the issues we are working on. The more backing we have for these grassroots efforts the better of voices will be heard.
The Regulatory Report is a bi-monthly column by Government Affairs Director Don Davis about the current state of government affairs issues that are relevant to builders on both state and local fronts. Davis is in his 30th year of representing the Master Builders Association. In his first 16 years he worked as your association’s local lobbyist in King County and Seattle and has been the director of the Government Affairs Department since 1998.