Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/15/2004 01:30 PM Senate L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                  SB 377-STATE MECHANICAL CODE                                                                              
CHAIR CON BUNDE announced SB 377 to be up for consideration.                                                                    
MR.  ZACK WARWICK,  staff to  Senator  Therriault, sponsor,  said                                                               
there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about this bill.                                                                    
     All it  does is  grant the  adoption authority  for the                                                                    
     Mechanical  Code to  the Department  of Labor.  It does                                                                    
     not change  the code  from one brand  to the  other. It                                                                    
     simply grants the adoption  authority to the department                                                                    
     since   historically  there   has  been   no  statutory                                                                    
     adoption authority.... In addition,  it does not change                                                                    
     the way  the plan  inspections or  building inspections                                                                    
     are done.  The Department  of Public Safety  will still                                                                    
     be doing the  plan inspections with regard  to fire and                                                                    
     life safety issues. The Department  of Labor will still                                                                    
     do   all  post-building   inspections  in   regards  to                                                                    
     mechanical,  plumbing  and   electrical  codes.  That's                                                                    
     exactly what's been going on for years.                                                                                    
     The  bill simply  recognizes that  the mechanical  code                                                                    
     and  the  plumbing  code are  closely  related  because                                                                    
     nearly  all mechanical  contractors  are also  plumbing                                                                    
     contractors. Given this  relationship and regardless of                                                                    
     which  code is  adopted, it  makes more  sense to  have                                                                    
     these two closely related  codes coordinated within one                                                                    
     single  agency. It  comes down  to  basically a  policy                                                                    
     call by the Legislature...                                                                                                 
CHAIR  BUNDE asked  if he  thought it  was possible  to alleviate                                                               
some of the misunderstanding. "What can  we do to lower the level                                                               
of anxiety this bill seems to have created?"                                                                                    
MR. WARWICK replied  that he has received calls from  a number of                                                               
different  industry groups,  Associated Builders  and Contractors                                                               
as well  as the International  Code Council. The letter  from the                                                               
Council does  not support SB  377, but it was  completely unaware                                                               
of what  the bill really does.  It is being put  where all family                                                               
codes will receive a fair hearing.  He added that he didn't think                                                               
it was possible to clear up the misconceptions.                                                                                 
MR.  JEFF ROBINSON,  Cliff's  Mechanical,  Anchorage, opposed  SB
377.  His understanding  is  that the  underlying  intent of  the                                                               
legislation is  to bring back  the Uniform Mechanical  Code (UMC)                                                               
just to appease a minority group of contractors.                                                                                
MR. ROBINSON said he is also  a member of the American Society of                                                               
Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning  Engineers and out of                                                               
all the people he has spoken to, no one supports it.                                                                            
MS. VICKI  STERLING, private consultant in  the design community,                                                               
opposed SB  377 saying it is  a life safety issue,  which belongs                                                               
in the Department of Public Safety.                                                                                             
MR.  CRAIG STEPHENSON,  International  Code  Council, opposed  SB
377.  He  has  read  the  actual bill,  which  has  very  generic                                                               
language. He  is concerned that  it is just  a way to  undo codes                                                               
that have  been adopted. He urged,  "What we need to  be doing is                                                               
taking a  very thoughtful look  at how  codes are adopted  in the                                                               
State of Alaska that serves Alaska the best."                                                                                   
MR.  ERNIE  HETRICK,  design professional,  opposed  SB  377.  He                                                               
thought all  codes should be  adopted by  the same group  so they                                                               
can be considered together.                                                                                                     
MR. KELLY  NICOLEILLO, Department of  Public Safety, said  he was                                                               
available to answer technical questions.                                                                                        
MR. DALE  NELSON, President, Alaska Professional  Design Council,                                                               
said he  sent the committee a  letter dated April 13  stating its                                                               
concerns. He  added one more  concern -  that there is  no stated                                                               
fiscal impact resulting from changing departments.                                                                              
MR. JOHN  KNABE, Training  Director, UA  Local 375,  Plumbers and                                                               
Pipefitters Joint  Apprenticeship Training Committee, said  he is                                                               
also chair of the City  of Fairbanks Plumbers Examining Board and                                                               
that all members support SB 377.                                                                                                
     We feel  it is a  good compromise and will  address the                                                                    
     current  situation  we  have of  having  two  different                                                                    
     codes  that   aren't  in   harmony  with   each  other,                                                                    
     published  by two  separate  organizations and  adopted                                                                    
     and  administered by  two  separate state  departments.                                                                    
     This   fragmented    approach   is    problematic   and                                                                    
     responsible for a great amount  of frustration and cost                                                                    
     to  the necessary  training  and  certification in  our                                                                    
     industries. We  have a  very good  working relationship                                                                    
     with  the  State  Department  of  Labor.  SB  377  will                                                                    
     benefit  the  public  and   our  industry  by  insuring                                                                    
     coordination of the plumbing and mechanical codes.                                                                         
MR.  JIM  LAHTI, Plumbers  and  Pipefitters  Local 375,  said  it                                                               
trains and maintains a significant  workforce to the standards of                                                               
the Uniform  Plumbing Code. "To  help maintain  consistency, it's                                                               
only  logical that  both the  mechanical and  the plumbing  codes                                                               
should fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor."                                                                 
MR. RODNEY  BROWN, Plumbers and Pipefitters  Local 375, supported                                                               
SB 377.                                                                                                                         
MR. RANDY BAYER supported SB 377.                                                                                               
     I  believe to  have both  the mechanical  code and  the                                                                    
     plumbing  code  under  the Department  of  Labor  would                                                                    
     facilitate  the  enforcement  and oversight  that  this                                                                    
     code provides for the citizens of the State of Alaska.                                                                     
MR. DAVID PEET, Fairbanks resident, supported SB 377.                                                                           
     It just  seems to me  that these two codes  are related                                                                    
     to  our industry  and  if they  are,  they should  fall                                                                    
     under the jurisdiction of one department.                                                                                  
MR.  DENNIS MICHAEL,  President and  owner, American  Mechanical,                                                               
thought SB 377 would give the public a better quality product.                                                                  
     There really  is no inspection  on the  jobsite because                                                                    
     the Department  of Labor  has no  authority to  look at                                                                    
     mechanical  systems when  they are  already on  the job                                                                    
     site looking at plumbing systems....                                                                                       
MR. DAYN COOPER, Chandler Plumbing  and Heating, supported SB 377                                                               
for the reasons already stated.                                                                                                 
MR. MARK  ANDERSON, Construction  Manager, Chandler  Plumbing and                                                               
Heating, supported SB 377 for all the previously stated reasons.                                                                
MR.  BILL SAGER,  Executive Director,  Mechanical Contractors  of                                                               
Fairbanks, said his members unanimously  support SB 377. "We feel                                                               
that since  our members have  to work  under both codes,  it just                                                               
makes sense for them to be administered out of one department."                                                                 
MR. CHUCK DEERDON, Ketchikan Building  Inspector, said he also is                                                               
representing   the    State   Homebuilder's    Association.   The                                                               
Homebuilder's Association opposed SB 377.                                                                                       
     One of  the reasons  is that  the IMC,  which a  lot of                                                                    
     municipalities     have    adopted,     includes    the                                                                    
     International  Mechanical Code  as part  and parcel  of                                                                    
     that. From  the city  perspective, the  interlocking of                                                                    
     the   International   Fire  Code,   the   International                                                                    
     Building  Code and  the  International Mechanical  Code                                                                    
     are  pretty important  and they  go to  the State  Fire                                                                    
     Marshall's office for review.  I think the system isn't                                                                    
     broken, but  I think  it could be  improved and  if you                                                                    
     don't mind, I'd like to  offer a suggestion. That would                                                                    
     be that  the Governor's  Office could possibly  get the                                                                    
     State  Fire Marshall's  Office,  which is  on the  same                                                                    
     level as the  Department of Labor, and get  a letter of                                                                    
     understanding   [so]...one   of  the   state   plumbing                                                                    
     inspectors   can  go   out  and   also  do   mechanical                                                                    
     inspections.  The  State  Fire  Marshall's  Office  can                                                                    
     still  do the  plan  review including  the life  safety                                                                    
     issues and  then we can  tailor the codes  to encompass                                                                    
     the   training   for   the  mechanical   and   plumbing                                                                    
     contractors.  But, at  this point,  I don't  think that                                                                    
     the issue  of the  Fairbanks -  and I  understand their                                                                    
     issues on  the Mechanical Plumber Contractor's  Union -                                                                    
     I  think they  have  a valid  point  that the  training                                                                    
     could be done  better and that they  could possibly mix                                                                    
     the codes so that things could work for them....                                                                           
CHAIR BUNDE agreed with him.                                                                                                    
MR. STEVE  SHOWS said he would  speak on his own  behalf. He said                                                               
he has 35 years in the  construction industry, 25 years have been                                                               
in  the State  of Alaska  regulating construction  for municipal,                                                               
borough,  state  and  federal   government.  He  opposed  SB  377                                                               
primarily  because  it doesn't  address  the  big picture  issue,                                                               
which is the safety of Alaskans in a built environment.                                                                         
     I think  there are  things related  to this  topic that                                                                    
     Alaskans do agree  on. Number one, the  State of Alaska                                                                    
     does  not  have  an effective  construction  regulation                                                                    
     environment.  It just  doesn't exist.  I believe  it is                                                                    
     evident that our municipal  governments, each and every                                                                    
     one  of  them...they  do  have   an  effective  way  of                                                                    
     administering these regulations  without conflicts in a                                                                    
     coordinated manner. So, I think  we have a roadmap that                                                                    
     the State of  Alaska may look to to see  how can we get                                                                    
     out of this quagmire, move  forward as a team, because,                                                                    
     trust me,  building a major  building takes a  team; it                                                                    
     takes qualified  licensed individuals on the  job doing                                                                    
     the  work.  It  takes  a knowledgeable  set  of  people                                                                    
     reviewing  plans and  all the  nuances and  intricacies                                                                    
     those  plans  have to  provide  the  safety that  codes                                                                    
     require.  Codes  need to  be  reviewed  and adopted  by                                                                    
     impartial technically proficient  individuals - as many                                                                    
     of them as you can  find working together. Beyond that,                                                                    
     as Reagan said, trust, but verify....                                                                                      
     So,  I leave  you  with that  thought  that things  are                                                                    
     working  well in  the plan  review area  of coordinated                                                                    
     technically adopted  codes in  public safety.  There is                                                                    
     no  effective field  inspection  by  the Department  of                                                                    
     Labor and  I can tell  you that for  a fact. If  a non-                                                                    
     union contractor gets a bid,  I may see the state labor                                                                    
     inspector  in  my  town  checking   up  on  him.  These                                                                    
     partisan interests  are understandable.  Economic self-                                                                    
     sufficiency  is a  human drive  that's very  important,                                                                    
     but  we need  to understand  that and  not adopt  codes                                                                    
     that  limit   new  technology   and  material   to  the                                                                    
     financial benefit  of a small  group of  contractors to                                                                    
     the detriment of the people  of the State of Alaska who                                                                    
     look to  their legislature and representatives  to help                                                                    
     them get the biggest bang  for the buck. Life safety is                                                                    
     important. We're  probably one of the  most seismically                                                                    
     active areas  on the world;  fire, loss of life  is not                                                                    
     something to be swallowed  over without the best effort                                                                    
     that we can bring to bear to address it.                                                                                   
CHAIR BUNDE said, "That best effort,  then, would be for folks to                                                               
forget their turf battles and work together?"                                                                                   
MR.  SHOWS  replied, "You  got  it.  My  personal opinion  is  to                                                               
consolidate    these    construction     regulations    in    one                                                               
department...." [END OF SIDE A]                                                                                                 
TAPE 04-32, SIDE B                                                                                                            
MR. SHOWS continued:                                                                                                            
     I've seen the Department of  Labor do their best effort                                                                    
     and  it  falls  short  and it's  one-sided.  That's  my                                                                    
     personal opinion.                                                                                                          
SENATOR SEEKINS asked how much  inspection of the mechanical work                                                               
is done by the Department of Public Safety (DPS).                                                                               
MR. SHOWS answered that the DPS  reviews plans, but does no field                                                               
inspection work that he knows of.                                                                                               
MR.  MAX MIELKE,  Business Manager,  Plumbers and  Pipefitters UA                                                               
Local 262,  said he is  also president  of the Alaska  State Pipe                                                               
Trades  Association,  which  represents over  1,000  members  who                                                               
install mechanical  systems every day for  mechanical contractors                                                               
in Southeast.  They all strongly  support SB 377. He  thought the                                                               
issue  is  basically  between  the  mechanical  contractors,  the                                                               
people  who  install  the mechanical  systems  and  the  building                                                               
     I want  to say one  thing in my closing  statement. The                                                                    
     IMC is  not a consensus code.  Only government building                                                                    
     officials are on the review  committee when it comes to                                                                    
     the  International  Code  Committee whereas  under  the                                                                    
     Uniform Mechanical  Code, there's a  balanced committee                                                                    
     for  all  industries  involved  in  putting  mechanical                                                                    
     contractors and building officials....                                                                                     
CHAIR BUNDE  said he wasn't  going to move  the bill today  and a                                                               
lot more  people wanted to testify.  He wanted to go  through the                                                               
list and  have people say  yes or no  on whether they  support SB
MR. ROBERT BUCH, Local 367, supported SB 377.                                                                                   
MR. GARY HILE, Anchorage, supported SB 377.                                                                                     
MR. HARRY DEVASCONCELLES, Alaska  Oil and Gas Association (AOGA),                                                               
opposed SB 377.                                                                                                                 
MR. GREG MOORE, NANA/Colt, Anchorage, opposed SB 377.                                                                           
MR. PAT  KNOWLES said he is  not a union member  and supported SB
MR. FRANK  KAPILARI, Knik Plumbing,  said he represents  the non-                                                               
union side of this and supports SB 377.                                                                                         
MR. COLIN MAYNARD, BBFM Engineers, opposed SB 377.                                                                              
MR. CRAIG HATELY, Local 367, supported SB 377.                                                                                  
MR. STEVE MILLER, Plumbers Local 3673 ATC, supported SB 377.                                                                    
CHAIR BUNDE thanked everyone for  their brevity and said he would                                                               
sit on the  bill for a while  to see if a  proper consensus would                                                               
SENATOR SEEKINS said for the record:                                                                                            
     I [was]  co-chair of  the Safety  Code Task  Force last                                                                    
     summer  with   Representative  Dahlstrom.   I've  spent                                                                    
     several hundred hours on this  matter. I think I'm spun                                                                    
     up about just  as much on where the turf  war is on any                                                                    
     of  it.  The   one  thing  that  I  want   to  say  for                                                                    
     consideration at  this point is that  under the current                                                                    
     system  there is  no inspection  by  the Department  of                                                                    
     Public  Safety on  mechanical  applications as  they're                                                                    
     applied  in  the  field.  Once   it's  done,  it's  not                                                                    
     inspected; it's  only a plan  review. As  I understand,                                                                    
     this  bill would  not eliminate  the  plan review  from                                                                    
     [the  Department of]  Public Safety.  That is  a safety                                                                    
     issue  that  continues  in place.  But,  there  is  the                                                                    
     matter  now that  an inspection  process would  have to                                                                    
     take  place  from  the  Department  of  Labor  just  as                                                                    
     they're supposed to do. They  may not in all cases, but                                                                    
     they're supposed to  do it and they're tasked  to do it                                                                    
     on the plumbing. So, it  appears to me...as I looked at                                                                    
     the  review from  the Safety  Code Task  Force that  in                                                                    
     order to  put in  place the mechanism  that we  came to                                                                    
     some consensus should exist in  the overall safety code                                                                    
     system in the State of  Alaska, that it's going to take                                                                    
     some time to design it  out and work with the different                                                                    
     departments and  try to  put in  place, because  of the                                                                    
     autonomy of  the cities - Juneau,  Anchorage, Fairbanks                                                                    
     - where they  have their own department.  The code then                                                                    
     applies to  pretty much  the rest  of the  state except                                                                    
     that  it's a  minimum code  that those  cities have  to                                                                    
     meet and if there's any  waiver from that, they have to                                                                    
     get approval.                                                                                                              
     What the co-chair and I  said was that it seems logical                                                                    
     that in the long run that  we should at least have some                                                                    
     kind of  inspection of the  mechanical and  plumbing on                                                                    
     the same level at the same  time and that it seems that                                                                    
     most  mechanical  contractors  are  also  the  plumbing                                                                    
     contractors  on the  job. So,  to have  some uniformity                                                                    
     that   would  be   simple,   let's   just  change   the                                                                    
     administration of  this code  from here to  here. There                                                                    
     is  no,  as  one  person  said  or  alleged,  no  known                                                                    
     underlying intent  from any  member of  the Legislature                                                                    
     to try  to favor one group  or the other, but  there is                                                                    
     an  intent  to make  sure  that  we have  an  efficient                                                                    
     operation   that  also   involves  inspection   of  the                                                                    
     completed work  as well as  just plan review.  We think                                                                    
     that that's  best, in the  long run, serves  the public                                                                    
     interest and the  safety of the people in  the State of                                                                    
CHAIR  BUNDE reiterated  that he  would hold  the bill  and hoped                                                               
time would build a consensus.                                                                                                   

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