Pending PA House Bills
HB 103 - Currently, municipalities within my district lack consistent acceptance of non-building permit waivers. My legislation would standardize the process across the state by requiring their inclusion in municipal zoning ordinances. With this legislation, zoning ordinances must allow for the creation of the non-building lot after they are presented with a completed DEP Non-Building waiver. However, when a building permit is applied for to build on a non-building lot, the owner must then comply with the relevant testing procedures.
Currently, municipalities can pick and choose when they accept non-building permits when a property is being subdivided. This lack of consistency is difficult for builders and families when planning developments or estates. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary to make it mandatory for municipalities to contain this non-building waiver provision as part of their zoning ordinance so that everyone has a consistent standard when it comes to subdividing property and eliminate confusion for future property owners.
HB 117 - I plan to re-introduce legislation requiring state-owned buildings and certain places of public accommodation, including auditoriums, convention centers, sports arenas and amusement parks with a maximum occupancy of 2,000 or more people, to install and maintain at least one adult changing station. An adult changing station under my legislation consists of an adult changing table placed within an enclosed restroom facility.
Adult changing tables allow caretakers to more easily and safely assist elderly individuals or those with disabilities or special healthcare needs who may not be fully able to care for themselves. The risk of injury to caregivers is reduced, and individuals who require assistance will receive it in a space that allows for their privacy and dignity to be respected.
California enacted legislation in 2015 to require commercial places of public amusement to install and maintain an adult changing station for adults with disabilities. Since then, other states including Ohio, New Hampshire and Georgia have also introduced similar legislation.
Please join me in making Pennsylvania a more accessible place for individuals with disabilities and for the elderly.
UCC Appeals Board HB TBD - In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation (former HB 2622, 2017-18) that will amend the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act (Act 45 of 1999) to require that decisions rendered by a local Uniform Construction Code (UCC) Board of Appeals to be honored by any subsequent code administrators that might take jurisdiction over a construction project. My legislation is being introduced in response to a situation in my district where a building owner obtained several variances on a building project from a local UCC Board of Appeals and has had problems with subsequent code administrators honoring those variances.
Specifically, this building owner has been in process, for several years, of attempting to open a restaurant. The owner had code interpretation disputes with the local Third Party Agency and applied for variances from the local UCC Board of Appeals; several variances were granted by the Board. The municipality decided to “opt out” from UCC enforcement, and the Department of Labor & Industry assumed jurisdiction for commercial buildings in the municipality. The department’s UCC enforcement personnel are not legally required to accept the variance decisions previously rendered; and, as of this writing, there is ongoing discussion with the department about the applicability of the previously granted variances.
The problem my bill seeks to address is that the law is silent on the applicability of previously granted variances to interpretations of the code by a subsequent code administrator. I believe that a building owner who spends the time and money on obtaining a variance should not have that variance simply ignored by a future code administrator. I believe my legislation is reasonable and will ensure that future property owners do not experience the frustration that my constituents have suffered.
RTK Law HB TBD - You may be aware of municipalities in your district that have been flooded by numerous public records requests from businesses seeking information that will be used for commercial purposes. There are many situations in which the information contained in such records is used to market various products and services.
The implications of this situation are two-fold. First, the resources of local government offices – sometimes staffed by one or two individuals, or a part time employee – may be overwhelmed by Right-to-Know requests made for a commercial purpose. Secondly, taxpayers, who pay the salaries of these local government employees, may be shortchanged when employees must dedicate substantial amounts of time and energy to fulfilling public records requests from business enterprises, some of which are located in other regions of the Commonwealth or out-of-state.
For these reasons, I intend to re-introduce legislation that will permit local and state agencies to charge additional search, review and duplication fees when responding to public record requests made for a commercial purpose. Under my proposal, each requester will be required to indicate whether the request is being made for a commercial purpose. The additional search, review and duplication fees under my legislation will be approved by the Office of Open Records. Additionally, the fees must be reasonable and cannot be established with the intent or effect of excluding individuals from access to records.
I believe that my legislation will balance the importance of the general public’s right to know with the value of preserving the ability of our local governments to balance their many responsibilities and serve their taxpayers.
State Electrician License HB TBD - When untrained individuals repair or install electrical work, it is a danger to workers and consumers. While some municipalities license electricians, Pennsylvania remains one of a handful of states that does not require state-wide licensing for this highly skilled and dangerous profession. We owe it to electricians and their customers to ensure uniform guidelines that produce a safe workplace and reliable electric service.
Establishing a statewide licensing requirement will allow for reciprocity with other states. In addition, this bill (Previously HB833) will greatly simplify and streamline the existing system of municipal licensure by creating one uniform standard that is honored statewide, and by many other states.
We have a responsibility as representatives of the people of this Commonwealth to protect consumers and workers. This is why I will be reintroducing legislation in the near future to improve the safety of those working in the electrical field and the people they serve.
Third Part Choice HB TBD - I will be introducing this legislation to amend the PA Construction Code Act (Act 45 of 1999) to require that municipalities, which opt to enforce the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) by utilizing third-party agencies, have at least two or more of them under contract for UCC administration. This legislation has been well-vetted because it directly mirrors the version of my legislation from last session (HB 1469) on this this issue as it was amended by the Senate and passed by the Senate (in a form that was “agreed to”); it was not considered by House on concurrence because of timing issues at end of last session. As many of you are aware, I have been involved for several sessions with advocating legislation to give property owners more choice in municipalities that have given a third-party agency a monopoly on UCC plan review/inspection services. I believe this proposal offers the most realistic opportunity to pass the House and Senate and be enacted into law.
It is first important to note that over 90% of Pennsylvania's 2,562 municipalities have elected to administer and enforce the UCC locally, using their own employees, joint administration, or via certified third-party agencies (private code enforcement agencies) that they have retained. It is estimated that about 60% of the “opt-in” municipalities have chosen to administer the UCC by contracting with a third-party agency, with the clear majority using only one third-party agency (thus a monopoly).
The primary arguments that municipalities use to rationalize contracting with one third-party agency is that they can hold the agency accountable for administering a program, and they also argue that competition will lead to some agencies compromising their enforcement standards to obtain business. I have argued, and continue to argue, that all third-party agencies are certified by the Department of Labor & Industry, and thus all are legally required to enforce the standards of the code; in fact, there are many areas of the state where municipalities allow property owners the choice of multiple third-party agencies, and there have been no issues.
My legislation simply requires that municipalities with third-party agency monopolies contract with another third-party agency to provide some choice for property owners. Agreements between municipalities and third-party agencies are considered “professional services” under the law, and not subject to competitive bidding requirements. I argue that the requirement for maintain a second third-party agency is not a burdensome mandate, and I believe there are ample third-party agencies in this state that would be willing to offer their services as the second third-party agency. The legislation provides a means for very rural municipalities to obtain a waiver from the “two or more” requirement if they cannot contract with a second third-party agency.
I am reintroducing this legislation in response complaints that I continue to receive from constituents about poor service, and, or, being "gouged" on fees. Because many of these agencies have monopolies on a municipality, property owners have no immediate redress; they must submit to interpretations/mandates given to them by code enforcement officials working for the third-party agency. This problem continues, and I strongly believe that the Legislature needs to protect property owners from “for profit” companies that have monopolies on enforcement.
It is important to note that my legislation has no effect on municipalities that have their own indigenous code enforcement program (such as Philadelphia or Pittsburgh), or a joint agreement with another municipality. I strongly believe my legislation is supported by the public, and especially those property owners who are attempting to make improvements to their property.
BCO Trainee HB TBD - In the near future I plan to reintroduce former House Bill 298 from last session. This legislation creates a building code official “trainee” program to ensure we have sufficient number of building code officials in the future. This legislation will help address a growing problem in this state which is the decreasing number of certified inspectors and plans examiners; the number of certified inspectors and plans examiners has decreased from over 4200 to less than 2500 in the last several years. Certified inspectors, in particular, are a rapidly aging population in Pennsylvania; municipalities and third party agencies are both reporting shortages in qualified, certified persons to fill vacancies.
Under the current regulations, an employee, whether for a municipality or a third party agency, cannot truly be of any significant value to their employer until they possess a number of UCC certifications. Employers cannot afford to pay an employee to “learn and take certification exams” until they have a sufficient number to be of economic value to the employer. This holds true for both municipal and third party employers. Unless there are some dramatic changes made to the structure of the certification system in Pennsylvania, there will be a significant shortage of certified inspectors and plans examiners in a very short period of time.
This new trainee allowance gives future code officials on the job training and experience. At this point the certification system established by the Department of Labor and Industry allows individuals to receive their “credentials”, via certification, without any requirement for practical field experience. Most states require some type of field experience as well as certification before being “licensed” or “certified” as inspectors. This bill would provide important experience before doing the job on their own.
The trainee classification system proposed in this legislation is being advocated for by the Pennsylvania Association of Building Code Officials and it is believed that this proposal addresses all of these issues with the current system. Structured much like systems employed in the practice of architecture and engineering, the trainee classification system would be based on a current, certified person agreeing to assume “responsible supervision” of a trainee, for a time period of relatively short duration. During this time, the trainee would be working in the field, performing supervisions or plan reviews, under the watchful eye of their sponsor. They would be studying and taking certification exams during this period, until they would qualify, by passing certification exams, to perform the inspections or plan reviews without having to be supervised by their sponsor.
The trainee status could only last for 2 years for residential certifications and 3 years for commercial. The trainee would not be allowed to continue beyond those time periods unless they were successful in passing certification exams in one or more plan review or inspection disciplines. This trainee classification would provide for supervision and accountability, while providing new people wanting to enter the plan review and inspection professions under the UCC with practical field experience – and a method by which municipal and third party employers would be able to experience the economic contribution of the trainee prior to them possessing permanent certifications
New Home Builders License TBD - Constructing a new home can be a dream come true for families, but it can be a challenging experience. From selecting a contractor through the entire construction process, homebuilding is filled with uncertainty. Disasters can happen even under the best of circumstances.
The New Home Construction Consumer Protection Act offers safeguards for both consumers and contractors during the construction process. Under this bill, home builders would be required to register with the Attorney General’s office and use standardized home construction contracts. In addition, the bill creates the Home Builder Guaranty Fund, which would be used to compensate homeowners for losses resulting from contract violations.
No family should have their dreams of a new home turn into a nightmare. No contractor should have their reputation ruined by events beyond their control. Please join me in this effort to support Pennsylvania’s homeowners and small businesses.
More 3rd Party Inspections HB TBD - Please find attached a copy of legislation that I will be re-introducing from last session (HB 2554) to amend the PA Construction Code Act (Act 45 of 1999) to give property owners the right to utilize any certified code official to conduct required construction inspections in municipalities that have contracted with only one third party agency for enforcement of the Uniform Construction Code (UCC). I believe that this offers a reasonable compromise between those of us in the House that oppose, in general, exclusive third-party enforcement of the UCC, and those who support exclusive administration by third party agencies.
It is first important to my legislation will still allow municipalities to contract with one third party agency to administer their UCC enforcement program. All property owners in such a municipality would still have to submit their building plans to the exclusive third-party agency for plan review, and issuance of permits. Ultimately, the exclusive third-party agency would issue a project’s certificate of occupancy.
My legislation simply allows a property owner to retain the services of any certified code official to perform the inspections required during the construction process. One of the big complaints by my constituents who live in municipalities with an exclusive third-party agency is poor service with respect to obtaining inspections, and, or, rude treatment by inspectors. There have been instances where inspector simply incompetently interpreted the UCC.
It is important to note that all code inspectors are certified by the state, thus they are legally required to enforce the standards of the code.
It is important to note that my legislation has no effect on municipalities that have their own indigenous code enforcement program (such as Philadelphia or Pittsburgh), or a joint agreement with another municipality.
PENDING PA Senate BILLS
Small Structure UCC Exemption SB TBD - I am re-introducing legislation to amend the Pennsylvania Construction Code (Act 45 of 1999) by exempting several types of common home improvement projects.
This legislation would assist homeowners in upgrading their homes by removing burdensome regulations and added costs on small improvement projects.
The home projects that would be exempt from the UCC under this legislation are as follows:
Decks that are no more than 30 inches above grade at any point which are attached or accessory to a residential building. Title 34, Chapter 403.62 of the PA Code excludes uncovered decks no greater than 30 inches from residential improvements that do not require a permit; however, there is a gray area with respect to application of this exemption and my legislation will put this exemption into statute.
Accessory structures that are attached to a residential building with cover, an entrance way, and are no more than one story high and not more than 200 square feet. For example, small sun rooms, an entrance way, a mud room, etc.
Patio covers as defined in 2009 IRC Appendix H or its successor requirement. This exemption would apply to patio covers no more than 12 feet high as described in Appendix H. Appendix H clearly describes patio covers that are only for outdoor living purposes and not as carports or habitable rooms. Thus, this exemption could not be abused to create additional enclosed habitable spaces in a home.
I am re-introducing this legislation in response to various complaints I have received from constituents regarding the over-regulation of relatively small home improvements by the Building Code.
Third Party Choice SB TBD - In the near future, I will be re-introducing legislation that would require a municipality to contract with at least three third party agencies. It will amend the UCC act to eliminate the current “monopoly”.
Under current law, municipalities that opt to administer the UCC can do it with their own employees, enter into a joint agreement with other municipalities, or hire a third party agency to administer their program.
This legislation also reigns in excessive fees that many municipalities charge their constituents for inspections by requiring them to use the fees solely to cover the costs of program enforcement. The UCC program should not be a revenue generating program for municipal budgets.
It will give residents the opportunity to have inspections completed in a reasonable priced and competitive manner.