Week Four at the Legislature has wrapped up. Here’s what you need to know:
Sprinkler Chatter Continues – While the Courts process BATCs request that the MN Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) delay implementation and enforcement of the residential sprinkler mandate and Energy Code, BATC continues to hear from legislators who are expressing interest in solving this issue at the Capitol. This support is bi-partisan in both bodies and there is growing momentum around BATCs core argument that the sprinkler mandate will unnecessarily add thousands in regulatory costs to newly built homes. Given the Governor’s strong support for the sprinkler mandate, it is not likely that there is a resolution of this issue. Instead, legislators will need to continue to build support for keeping sprinklers optional and placing housing affordability as a top legislative priority as session moves on.
Proposed Attorneys Fee Bill Tabled, Fails to Advance – Last Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee tabled a bill(SF104) that would award attorney fees ONLY to homeowners and not contractors, even if they are the prevailing party. This proposal would increase the likelihood of disputes escalating in both process and cost. Judiciary Committee chair, Sen. Latz, said it’s possible that the bill will be brought back for a vote in the next two weeks. BATC provided testimony at the hearing in opposition to the policy, and will continue to fight this bill.
MN House Creates a Met Council Oversight Sub-Committee – The Met Council’s Thrive 2040 planning process has invited calls for Met Council scrutiny from a host of groups including the House GOP. BATC has been a leader in bringing attention to the economic and housing risks of projecting a growth plan that doesn’t match the market preferences of our region. Since those initial discussions about growth and population, an increasing number of local government groups have weighed in, expressing concern about the infrastructure and financial implications of the plan that doesn’t fit our region’s growth pattern. With a new sub-committee created it is likely that these issues will get increased scrutiny at the Capitol.
Transportation Debate Heating Up – As the session battle lines are drawn its becoming increasing clear that transportation funding will be the main event. BATCs primary objective in the transportation funding discussions has been to shield new and newly built developments from the reach of street improvement impact fees, which local governments have long sought and are seeking in this transportation debate. BATC-negotiated language has been placed in the Senate Transportation Package which protects new developments, but we will continue to monitor to ensure that our negotiated language remains in any street improvement fee authority granted.
Code Delay and Technical Bill Introduced in House – SF 201 was introduced last week by Sen. John Pederson (R-St. Cloud), and this week fellow CMBA member Rep. Tama Theis (R-St Cloud) introduced its companion, HF 539. BATC supports the bills which will include BATC priorities to delay the current energy code. The bills also create several technical reforms to improve the code development and access by the industry and public including: a six-year code cycle, 12-months for implementation after a code is adopted, and also to make the code available to the public at no cost.