Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/29/1995 03:10 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 224 - STATE PLUMBING CODE CHAIRMAN KOTT stated that they would hear a report from the subcommittee chairman on the status of HB 224, "An Act relating to the state plumbing code." Number 105 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG directed the committee's attention to the working draft CS 9-LSO740/O. The subcommittee reviewed the CS the previous day. They have taken the original sponsor's bill and transferred the administration of the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) to the Department of Labor (DOL). In doing so, they also adopted an amendment requested by the City of Fairbanks and the City of Kodiak. He explained that they felt as an interim measure, they should provide the relief requested from those particular jurisdictions having fuel oil heated boilers, as opposed to gas fired boilers. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said the only new addition to the bill was the multiple dual sunset provisions placed in the statute. Sections 8 and 9 of the working draft CS provides for a two year sunset of the heat exchanger section as well as for the plumbing code adoption. The intent of the sunset provision was that the committee, as a long range project, would be reviewing the entire building code along with the different circumstances within the state of Alaska. After reviewing these, it would bring recommendations for revisions in the administration of the code, with the intent of weaning the administration of the code away from the legislature, if that is found to be the desirable thing to do. He said it is imperative to develop a public process so that local amendments can be put to use on a statewide basis with adequate public review and input. Number 166 CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if there were any questions. Hearing none, he said he would entertain a motion. Number 171 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER made a motion to adopt the proposed working draft for HB 224, Version O, dated 3-28-95. Number 173 CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if there wan an objection. Hearing none, CSHB 224(L&C), Version O, was adopted. Chairman Kott said he would take testimony via teleconference from Sitka. Number 183 MARY LOU VILANDRE, FRANKS PLUMBING, HEATING AND SHEET METAL, testified via teleconference from Sitka. She inquired if the UPC makes a change, would the legislature automatically adopt the change without any input. CHAIRMAN KOTT responded that they would revisit the entire code during the interim, at which point they would solicit public input regarding the applicable codes. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG added that the bill requires the DOL to draft regulations and take public testimony during the interim period. MS. VILANDRE asked if that would be through the teleconference network. CHAIRMAN KOTT asked ED FLANAGAN to join the committee at the table. Number 206 ED FLANAGAN, ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, stated that he was not the best witness on this issue. Generally, when the department adopts regulations, public hearings are held in Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau. The department also accepts written testimony. However, he was unclear regarding the teleconferencing of those meetings. The issue of whether they would take testimony by phone would be determined pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act. Number 220 MS. VILANDRE stated that Franks Plumbing and Heating does business between Ketchikan and Barrow. Their business requires them to find a heat transfer medium suitable for 50 degrees to -50. She doesn't feel the National Code could "hack it for Alaska without some input from the people." Number 223 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG responded that this was why they incorporated the two year sunset date. They would have put just one year in, but they wanted sufficient time to review the entire building code system, to allow for greater public input and the creation of local amendments as necessary. Number 237 STEVE SHUTTLEWORTH, BUILDING OFFICIAL, CITY OF FAIRBANKS, testified via teleconference from Fairbanks. He said that Fairbanks had just come on line and he had only received the work draft CS in the past few minutes. He asked the purpose of the sunset clause. Number 257 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG explained that the sunset provisions were provided to remind all of them that they would be taking on an interim project to complete the examination of all building codes in the state, including the regulatory scheme and methods by which local amendments could be adopted. The committee wants to avoid what they were doing here today, which is to adopt a local amendment at Mr. Shuttleworth's request in the legislative forum, when it should be handled by another forum. MR. SHUTTLEWORTH appreciated the intent. However, as he reads the section, it is a sunset for Subsection C, which is a single wall coil provision. He reads it as (indiscernible) type of amendment and it seems that it is only attached to the single wall coil. Number 287 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER explained that his belief in suggesting the sunset provision, was that it's not appropriate that the legislature deal with and revisit the plumbing codes every year, or every time the UPC changes. He said this would be better for a board or group having more expertise in the area to accomplish that task. There was a compromise in terms of putting the heat exchanger language into the statute. They put it in statute because they are addressing a specific problem existing now, and they had it sunset, so that by the time it sunsets, regulations will be in place. Number 302 MR. SHUTTLEWORTH said that the reason the City of Fairbanks opposes the amendment is that over the years, the city has not had the best working relationship with DOL. He pointed out the tremendous amount of correspondence taking place between the City of Fairbanks and the committee. He would agree that adopting regulations, and working through the regulatory process, would probably be appropriate in most cases. However, because things have not worked out with DOL, they are willing to take their chances with the legislature. MR. SHUTTLEWORTH asked what assurances they would have, after the two year sunset, that the DOL will "nix" the single wall coil and revamp it completely. His goal was to solve a problem that is real in Fairbanks, not to create a political dilemma or crisis. He is meeting with the Architects Association on March 30th, and he has verbal assurances they are in support of the single wall coil amendment. He told the committee that he had polled the Interior Builders Association, and he said the Mechanical Contractors have voiced their support. The message is clear that compromise is appropriate, but they are adamantly opposed to the sunset clause. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT voiced that the committee understands the concerns not only of Fairbanks but of other areas as well. He said that they will be taking a look at the building code, and if they can't get cooperation, they'll be back two years from now, addressing the same topic. He commented that the legislature was under new management and that there seemed to be a good working relationship. The department has agreed to look hard at the matter. Number 355 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG wanted to point out the seriousness in which the committee takes the state building code issue. This particular bill exposed a significant weakness in the regulatory and statutory structure, and if further disclosed weaknesses concerning the way they are administered in the state. He said this would be a major interim project for the committee and himself personally. He pointed out that he has received input from various state building officials, specifically in other large urban areas, indicating disagreement with the amendment. The committee is taking a position to support the people in Fairbanks, particularly given the input from Representative Jeannette James. He asked that any adamant rejection of the sunset clause not cloud the ability of the committee to move the bill through the legislature. Number 371 CHAIRMAN KOTT asked Representative Jeannette James to join them at the table. Number 380 LARRY LONG, CITY PLUMBING INSPECTOR, CITY OF FAIRBANKS, testified from Fairbanks via teleconference. He said he deals every day with the plumbing code. Public input is great, but if you don't act on it, it's worthless. In Fairbanks, they have approximately 25 amendments to the UPC, which have come from public testimony. He does not believe the state has ever amended the UPC. Local conditions should dictate when it comes to codes, especially codes written in Southern California. He can't see the state of Alaska taking on such a project, thinking they can take public input and make a perfect code for the entire state. He said he's worked with Adell Bacon in committees, and they all understand that there are local conditions that have to be addressed. If they spend every two years analyzing these, they'll never accomplish anything. MR. LONG said that 90 percent of the water heated in Fairbanks is heated with single wall coils, including the city's main water system at the treatment plant. Cooperation and regulations with the DOL will not work. In his opinion HB 224 "should be flushed." Number 418 CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if anyone else wished to testify via teleconference or in Juneau. There being no further testimony, he closed public testimony. Number 420 REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES noted that she didn't want to be insulting to anyone on the committee, but asked, "If single wall coils are good today, what makes anyone think that in two years they won't be?" She reiterated that agencies should not be given "carte blanche" authority to write regulations in areas. Past experience has never been totally successful. However, she agrees that there are cooperative people in the department today; but, there is no guarantee those same people will be here tomorrow. She noted the same goes for the legislators at the table. Someone else may be elected that has no sympathy for the same issues that they do, and these issues ought to be addressed by regulation. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES commented that she is presently trying to get more public input into the regulation process. The comments they have heard indicates that public input makes no difference. Historically, it hasn't always made any difference. She said that the public process in writing regulations in many cases has been a sham because regulations were already written before they ever got to the public process. Having the whole bill expires in two years might make sense. However, she doesn't understand the purpose of picking out the single wall issue and have it expire in two years. She realizes that people in Anchorage don't think this is a good idea, but it depends on how you look at things. The people in Fairbanks must look at this differently, as 90 percent of their water is heated with single wall coils. She urged the committee to delete the sunset clause. She appreciates that fact that the committee will be looking at the building codes, but she disagreed with Representative Porter, who believes that these are issues that should be dealt with in regulation. She asked who else is responsible in this state to make laws in this state, but the legislature. If we don't want to assume our responsibility for this and want to pass it on to someone else who doesn't have the same obligation to public input that they do, then we are being derelict in their duties." She requested the deletion of the clause. She added that whether they delete it or not, it has nothing to do with whether or not you can rewrite the code in the next two years. Number 475 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER stated that he sympathizes with the City of Fairbanks and pointed out that it was not the intent of the sunset to say that in two years, it would drop off and that they expect the code to stay the same. It takes the Plumbing Code and places it in the same category as all the other building codes that don't have to go through the statutory process for revision. They do not have the time or expertise to deal with the intricacies of electrical, plumbing, and various other building codes that exist. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER noted that the City of Anchorage uses the Board of Examiners and Appeals that doesn't impact even the Municipal Assembly. They recognize that they are not equipped to deal with the levels of professional problems existing in these codes, especially in a state that needs local options. If they could write a statute, that would allow regionalization for the input of local options that cities could utilize. CHAIRMAN KOTT stated that PAT KNOWLES had joined the teleconference line from a remote site. Number 503 PAT KNOWLES, MECHANICAL ADMINISTRATOR, AND OWNER OF MOUNTAIN MECHANICAL, PLUMBING AND HEATING, testified in favor of HB 224. He explained that double wall heat exchangers were adopted in the UPC because they cannot control the fluid substance that is used to heat the water on the other side of that pipe. For example, in Anchorage there are four types of anti-freeze available for use in boilers as heat exchanger fluid. They are; Polypropylene glycol with corrosion inhibitors; polypropylene glycol without corrosion inhibitors; RV anti-freeze; and, ethylene glycol anti-freeze. He said the difference between polypropylene glycol with corrosion inhibitors and ethylene glycol is about $6 dollars per gallon. MR. KNOWLES said the beauty of the double wall heat exchanger is the fact that it's vented; so if the coil breaks it squirts the fluid out the bottom. You know you have a problem before it makes it into your drinking water. He said this is not an economic issue, it is a health issue. He read the following from the UPC, "Frost or Snow Closure. Where frost or snow closure are likely to occur in locations having minimum design temperatures below zero, then terminal shall be a minimum of two inches in diameter, but in no event smaller than the required pipe. The change in diameter shall be made inside the building at least one foot below the roof and terminate not less that ten inches above the roof, or as required by the administrative authority." They make allowances for specific locations to adjust the code to their needs. He reiterated that this is a health issue, not an economic issue. The single wall heat exchanges were failing in Anchorage because the pipes are sensitive to the velocity of water traveling through them. If the pump is too big, it moves the water too fast. Plumbers size their pipes to what the need will be at the other end. Number 563 CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if there were questions. Hearing none, he closed public testimony. Number 568 MIKE TIBBLES, HOUSE RESEARCHER TO REPRESENTATIVE VIC KOHRING, ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE, PRIME SPONSOR OF HB 224, testified that Mr. Knowles was one of many individuals who had contacted their office with concerns on this specific issue. They are not convinced that the single wall exemption would be guaranteed safe in every instance. He said that you could require propylene glycol in the heat exchanger; however, there is no enforcement mechanism to guarantee that this is what will be used. His office has had nothing but technical support for the double wall heat exchanger, and the only opposition they have heard is financial in nature. Therefore, the sponsor does not feel that there is sufficient evidence to warrant the single wall exchanger at this time. Number 583 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG restated the position of the subcommittee on the appropriateness of this body to look at local amendments to building codes. The purpose of taking on this major project, is to introduce legislation by next session to correct this problem issue and reform the law. Number 596 CHAIRMAN KOTT observed that they had heard a lot of conflicting testimony, and that there could be strong justification for local options. Number 610 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stated that it was a matter of money. Everything they do is a matter of money. There is a long list of schools that need help because of code violations. Code violations are the biggest "make work" and "make work activity" that they have going. This country has a multi-trillion dollar debt. This state has a $500 million dollar budget deficit where the legislature must look and see what is financially feasible. She said that it is not just a safety issue; it's financial, and without any money, there won't be any safety at all. Number 624 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER commented the CS has yet to be adopted. It recognizes the financial impact and recognizes that they have had conflicting information with balancing safety versus financial considerations. The compromise is that they will allow single walls to stay in effect for at least two years, and have the option of revisiting the issue then. Number 631 CHAIRMAN KOTT recognized that there was no one on the committee from the Fairbanks area, but that they all appreciate what Fairbanks has and is currently going through. He said that it is a real problem that will require a real solution. Number 635 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG acknowledged that Representative James brought up a good point of looking at the entire scope of things. One of the alternatives they should look at is whether they want to do away with all state building codes. He said that if they adopt these codes, but there is no local amendments, they may be better off without them. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES noted that Fairbanks should be happy that the single wall coil was incorporated into the bill. Currently, they are out of compliance. She said that it puts them in compliance for the next two years, and she understands their frustration with the irresponsiveness of state government. TAPE 95-26, SIDE B Number 000 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG made a motion to adopt the proposed CSHB 224, working draft, 9-LSO740/0, Banister. Number 005 CHAIRMAN KOTT stated there was a motion to move the CSHB 224 Version O. The committee took a brief at ease. The CS working draft Version O had been previously adopted. Chairman Kott stated there was a motion to move CSHB 224, Version O, dated 3-28-95, Banister, from committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes. He asked for objections. Hearing none, CSHB 224(L&C) moved out of committee. CHAIRMAN KOTT appointed Representative Rokeberg Chairman of the subcommittee that would be looking at the revision of the building codes during the interim. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said he would take the assignment seriously and willingly.