Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/01/2004 01:37 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 377-STATE MECHANICAL CODE CHAIR CON BUNDE announced SB 377 to be up for consideration for its first hearing and that he didn't intend to move it today. MR. ZACH WARWICK, staff to Senator Gene Therriault, sponsor, said it is designed to solve a problem that arose in 2001 when the Department of Public Safety (DPS) adopted a new brand of building code for the State of Alaska. The state has five codes for building construction: plumbing, electrical, mechanical, building and fire. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOLWD) has the statutory authority to adopt the mechanical and electrical codes; the DPS by default has used the following statute to adopt the other three codes. It states: The Department of Public Safety may adopt regulations for the purpose of protecting life and property from fire and explosion by establishing minimum standards for fire and safety criteria in commercial, industrial, business, institutional or other public buildings and buildings used for residential purposes containing four or more dwelling units. MR. WARWICK explained that when the DPS adopted the new codes, which are different than the Uniform Codes, it was done under the guise that if the new codes weren't adopted, the state would lose Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money. That was a completely untrue statement. Mechanical contractors who are the ones in the field doing the installations didn't have any input on design or installation procedures; the code was primarily designed by architects, engineers and building officials. Currently, a lawsuit before the Supreme Court of Alaska is trying to revert back to the uniform family of codes. This bill would solve that problem by removing all references to the Uniform Mechanical Code. CHAIR BUNDE said about 10 people wanted to testify and there were about 11 minutes left and that another hearing would be held at another time. MR. EUGENE RUTLAND, Executive Director, Mechanical Contractors of Alaska, supported SB 377. He explained that recently Alaska adopted a Mechanical Code and a Plumbing Code that was published by two different entities who did not coordinate their publications with each other. We need to have these codes under one agency where they can be coordinated. The Department of Public safety only performs mechanical and electrical plan review for fire and life safety requirements. The balance of the mechanical code is not enforced at this time. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development has field inspectors who physically inspect actual installations. Since mechanical and plumbing are so closely intertwined, these same inspectors could and should inspect the mechanical installation, also. Finally, the owners of our member firms are licensed mechanical administrators. They have both plumbing and mechanical category endorsements on their licenses. State statutes require them to sign off on each project they are responsible for. This certifies that the project has been solved in accordance with the applicable mechanical or plumbing codes. The penalty for violation ranges from a fine to a loss of license.... We support the passage of SB 377. MR. DOUG MATHERS, Building Official, City of Kodiak, opposed SB 377. His reasoning is in the fax he sent to the committee. MR. GREG MOORE, Nana/Colt Engineering, said they are an oil and gas engineering firm and opposed SB 377. We oppose it because we haven't finished the business, yet, of the Safety Codes Task Force. If we would finish our business there, those items that we're talking about in this bill would be taken care of.... We also oppose it because this bill only tries to solve the problem for 477 mechanical administrators that will be affected by this bill. There are 6,166 engineers, designers and residential builders that will also be affected by this bill, except in a negative way. MR. COLIN MAYNARD, Alaska Professional Design Council (APDC), opposed SB 377. We believe that the process that the department of Public Safety has used to adopt the mechanical code for over 40 years has always been the same. The code was written by The International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) that they have adopted for the last 40 years. ICBO now, under the name of International Code Council (ICC), has written the International Mechanical Code that we're using, so it's not a different code. It's the same people with the same code. MR. CRAIG FREDEEN, Mechanical Engineer, ASCG, Inc. opposed SB 377. He thought the code should stay in the Department of Public Safety because it has a more open and public process. MR. JEFF ROBINSON, Klebs Mechanical, Inc., opposed SB 377. MS. EDEN LARSON, President, Associated Builders and Contractors, (ABC), opposed SB 377. MR. SAM KITO III, Alaska Professional Design Council (APDC), said it represents over 5,000 design professionals in the State of Alaska and opposed SB 377. MR. CRAIG STEVENSON, Regional Manager, Governmental Relations Office, ICC, said it is a nonprofit, public benefit corporation whose history is in three former groups - one of them known as ICBO. Although their process of code development is similar to what ICBO used to do, it's much expanded and includes much more industry in the decision making process. The Uniform Mechanical Code that has been adopted by the State of Alaska was the ICBO version and that is not promulgated and updated by them any more; however, the assets of ICBO are owned by the ICC. His organization helps facilitate a process for safety codes to be used by local and state government. He suggested that SB 377 be held for further investigation to see if it meets the spirit and intent of AS 44.62, Administrative Procedures, and if it meets the state's policy for public meetings. He opposes the bill on the grounds that there hasn't been a complete inquiry into all the organizations, their processes and what others have in terms of providing solutions. Lastly, he noted faulty references on page 1, lines 10, 11 and 13. CHAIR BUNDE asked him to forward his comments in writing to the committee. There being no further business to come before the committee, he adjourned the meeting at 3:30 p.m.