Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 8, 2012

Forum: Common-sense construction rules

The Michigan Senate has an opportunity to join colleagues in the House and say "yes" to a common-sense reform in how the state approves changes in the Single State Construction Code.

House Bill 4561 makes two important changes to the Construction Code Act. First, it allows the state to update the Code on either a three-year or six-year code cycle as it believes appropriate. HB 4561 also requires that any future changes in the mandatory construction codes be approved by the state Legislature and not through the administrative rules process.

Current law requires the Code to be updated every three years regardless of whether the department feels it is necessary. It is important to note that HB 4561 does not mandate the code be updated only once every six years. It simply gives state regulators the flexibility to determine what they feel is best.

Thirty-five other states and Washington, D.C., already have a flexible code cycle law on the books and find it working successfully. HB 4561 brings Michigan in line with effective practices already adopted by much of the rest of the country.

Buying new code books from the private companies who write the model codes and hold the copyright on those codes cost Michigan over $13 million — even though there were minimal changes to the Code.

The money goes to out-of-state publishers. It would be much better for Michigan's economy to allow that money to stay in state and be used to shore up Michigan's vital housing industry.

The main purpose behind Michigan's Construction Code is to protect public safety. HB 4561 allows state officials to have more flexibility in its regulatory process, saves money and continues to allow for effective rules that emphasize the importance of public safety.

Some manufacturing interests are opposing HB 4561 because they say it will inhibit their ability to introduce new products and technologies into the marketplace.

The legislation does allow for new products and technologies in a listed code to be used, but not mandated, even if that edition of the code is not adopted.

Despite misleading claims to the contrary by special interests opposing the legislation, there are several other things HB 4561 will not do:

• It will not affect insurance rates in Michigan.

• It will not drive technology companies out of the state.

• It will not cost the state federal grant money.

• It will not make homes unsafe

• It will not protect bad builders.

The fact is that HB 4561 will be good for Michigan's economy. It will allow builders to rapidly adopt new, money-saving and energy-efficient technologies into their homes, helping to create thousands of jobs throughout the state.

The state House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved HB 4561 by a vote of 68-39. The state Senate should follow suit, approve the flexible code cycle bill and send it to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.

About the author: Lee Schwartz is executive vice president for government relations for the Michigan Association of Home Builders.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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