Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/01/2003 09:01 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
     CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 180(L&C)                                                                                            
     "An Act establishing the Safety Code Task Force; and providing                                                             
     for an effective date."                                                                                                    
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Co-Chair Wilken  explained that this  bill would "establish  a nine-                                                            
member safety  code task  force, within the  Legislature, to  review                                                            
five primary  safety codes dealing  with construction in  Alaska and                                                            
make  recommendations  regarding  the consolidation   of the  code's                                                            
administrative functions."                                                                                                      
ZACH WARWICK, Staff to  Senator Gene Therriault, the bill's sponsor,                                                            
explained  that, currently,  numerous  departments  are involved  in                                                            
establishing  and   administering  the  fire,  building,   mechanic,                                                            
plumbing, and  electrical codes "which  are supposed to ensure  safe                                                            
building and construction  throughout the State."  He furthered that                                                            
currently the  fire, building, and  mechanical codes are  managed by                                                            
the Department  of Public Safety through  the State Fire  Marshall's                                                            
office, while the plumbing  and electrical codes are managed through                                                            
the Department of Labor  and Workforce Development. He characterized                                                            
a set  of code  as a "family".  He  stated that,  "therein lays  the                                                            
problem," as the  departments have adopted separate  families of the                                                            
two "national  families  of codes;"  thereby,  he asserted,  causing                                                            
dissention between the departments.                                                                                             
Mr.  Warwick elaborated  that  recently  the State  Fire  Marshall's                                                            
office adopted the "International"  family of codes, contrary to the                                                            
Department  of Labor and Workforce's  "Uniform" family of  codes. He                                                            
stated that  because there  is "a lot of  cross-referencing  done on                                                            
these codes" and  because two separate families of  codes now exist,                                                            
the departments' codes are not uniform to each other.                                                                           
Mr. Warwick  referenced SB 38, which  he stated, attempted  to solve                                                            
the training and  licensing issues that arose during  the transition                                                            
of the fire,  building, and mechanical  codes from the Uniform  Code                                                            
to the International family  of codes. He stated that the suggestion                                                            
of  creating this  nine-member  task  force to  impartially  address                                                            
issues was the  result of that legislation. He stated  that the task                                                            
force would be  comprised of three members representing  the Uniform                                                            
code, three members  representing the International  code, and three                                                            
appointed impartial members.                                                                                                    
Mr.  Warwick  advised   that  the  decision  was  made   to  exclude                                                            
representatives  of the construction  industry as voting  members of                                                            
the  task force,  as  he attested,  their  inclusive  would make  it                                                            
impossible "to  produce a working document." However,  he continued,                                                            
it was suggested  that the construction  industry be included  on an                                                            
advisory   panel  within   the  task   force.   He  furthered   that                                                            
representatives  from the Division of Occupational  Licensing "and a                                                            
person from fire prevention"  would also be included on the advisory                                                            
panel, and he  noted that a forthcoming amendment  would provide for                                                            
the inclusion of other entities on the advisory panel.                                                                          
Mr. Warwick  shared  that the Task  Force would  be responsible  for                                                            
discussions regarding current  codes and recommendations regarding a                                                            
single  family   of  codes  to  provide   consistency  as   well  as                                                            
discussions and  recommendations for a single State  agency to adopt                                                            
and  administer  all  codes.  He mentioned  that  some  states  have                                                            
adopted  codes  comprised  of both  the  Uniform  and International                                                             
family of codes.                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken  noted  that there  has  been  "considerable  input                                                            
regarding this task force,"  and he commented that the goal would be                                                            
to develop  a  committee substitute  that  defines  "what is  really                                                            
trying  to   be  accomplished  with   this  bill"  to  benefit   the                                                            
communities  and people of  the State. He  noted that the  Fairbanks                                                            
North Star  Borough that  he represents is  against the bill  in its                                                            
current form. He shared  that this "seemingly innocuous issue… seems                                                            
to have all sorts of tentacles."                                                                                                
Senator  Olson  asked  how  the  members  of  the  Task  Force  were                                                            
Mr. Warwick responded that  the members were identified because they                                                            
have the  "most involvement"  in the adoption  and administering  of                                                            
the codes. He  mentioned that some professions, such  as a municipal                                                            
building  official were suggested,  but not  selected for  inclusion                                                            
because of "vested interest" concerns.                                                                                          
Senator  Olson  voiced that  a  local building  official  should  be                                                            
Mr. Warwick  responded that  the involvement  of this profession  on                                                            
the advisory  panel would be addressed  in a forthcoming  amendment.                                                            
Senator Olson  asserted that a local building representative  should                                                            
be on the Task Force.                                                                                                           
Mr. Warwick  defended the omission  of a local building official  on                                                            
the  task  force by  noting  their  inclusion  as  a member  of  the                                                            
advisory  panel, as he  stated, these individuals  administer  codes                                                            
rather that create or design them.                                                                                              
Senator  Olson  asked  why  a  fire  safety  representative  is  not                                                            
included on the task force.                                                                                                     
Mr. Warwick  responded  that  that decision  was based  on the  same                                                            
reasoning as the exclusion of a local building official.                                                                        
JAMES  BAISDEN,   Fire  Marshall,  City  of  Kenai,  testified   via                                                            
teleconference  from Kenai  and spoke  against  this legislation  as                                                            
"the  make-up of  the task  force  is unfair  to fire  marshals  and                                                            
building officials  who have been  involved in the code process  for                                                            
fifty-five  years protecting the citizens  of the State."  He opined                                                            
that the  bill is "weighted  heavily against  these groups,"  and he                                                            
attested  that  code changes  would  affect  communities  and  other                                                            
involved  entities  financially as  recertification,  training,  and                                                            
other  aspects of  conforming  to the codes  would  be required.  He                                                            
voiced  support  for  the  International  family  code  as  it  more                                                            
adequately protects the State.                                                                                                  
DAVID OWENS,  Owner, Owens Inspection  Services, a private  building                                                            
inspection company in Homer,  testified via teleconference from Mat-                                                            
Su, to voice support  of this bill. He noted however,  that while it                                                            
is a good concept; he aired  "that the balance of the Board needs to                                                            
be changed" to include a certified building inspector.                                                                          
SAM KITO III,  Representative, Alaska  Professional Design  Council,                                                            
testified in Juneau to  express that the task force should include a                                                            
fire  protection   and/or   a  certified   building  inspector.   He                                                            
questioned  the inclusion of an electrical  industry representative                                                             
on  the   task  force,  as   he  remarked   that  the  Uniform   and                                                            
International  family of  codes pertaining  to electrical codes  are                                                            
basically identical.                                                                                                            
Senator  Taylor asked  for further  information  as to  the type  of                                                            
building inspector  that the testifier would support  being included                                                            
on the task force.                                                                                                              
Mr. Kito clarified  that either a certified building  inspector or a                                                            
municipal  building official  should  be included.  He stated  that,                                                            
while they have "different  perspectives on the code, they both have                                                            
a working knowledge of the code."                                                                                               
GARY  POWELL,  Director  State  Fire  Marshall,   Division  of  Fire                                                            
Prevention,  Department  of Public  Safety, voiced  support for  the                                                            
concept of the legislation,  but voiced that the balance of the task                                                            
force should  include a Fire  Marshall and  a building official.  He                                                            
noted that, while  the State has five separate, identified  codes, a                                                            
task force  without a Fire  Marshall and  a building official  would                                                            
represent only  three. He declared  that the two codes omitted  "are                                                            
truly the major  codes of the five groups; the building  codes being                                                            
the  kingpin that  all  other codes  are  based on."  Therefore,  he                                                            
asserted, these  groups should be voting members of  the task force.                                                            
Mr. Powell expressed that  the State has been successfully operating                                                            
with both the  International and Uniform family codes  for more than                                                            
one and one-half years.  He spoke to the transitional training issue                                                            
by explaining  that a minimum 90-day transition period  was provided                                                            
and  that construction  projects  underway  or being  designed  were                                                            
allowed to proceed under  the code that was in place at the time. He                                                            
stressed that  this provided "ample  time" for training and  project                                                            
needs,  and he informed  that the  Department of  Public Safety  has                                                            
prevailed in the related court cases.                                                                                           
Senator  Olson  asked how  small  contractors  are affected  by  the                                                            
requirement of two types of codes.                                                                                              
Mr. Powell responded that  the number of construction permits issued                                                            
increased during  this time, which  he attested, indicates,  "things                                                            
are proceeding  fine". He stated that  the Division has received  no                                                            
complaints regarding the technical aspect of codes.                                                                             
Senator  Olson   verified  that  there   have  been  no   complaints                                                            
concerning  whether one of the two  family codes is more  cumbersome                                                            
than the other.                                                                                                                 
Mr. Powell concurred.                                                                                                           
Co-Chair  Wilken  announced  that  the  SB  180  would  be  HELD  in                                                            
Co-Chair  Wilken  thanked the  Committee  for participating  in  the                                                            
previous public testimony  hearings for SB 117 Eliminating Longevity                                                            
Bonus Program  and he noted  that listening  to public testimony  is                                                            
important and appreciated by the citizens of the State.                                                                         
Senator Olson  commended the Chairman  for the respectful  manner in                                                            
which  the  hearings   on  the  Longevity  Bonus  legislation   were                                                            

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