Sprinkler System Legislation Moving Through Both Houses

A March 25 Salisbury Daily Times article discusses legislation that is passing both the House and Senate (HB 366 / SB 602) that would require sprinkler systems in new residential homes.  Each bill has passed its respective house but contains slightly different provisions.  MACo opposed both bills.

Under current law, a county government may adopt local amendments to the Maryland Building Performance Standards (the State building code), subject to certain exceptions.  As introduced, the bills would have prohibited counties from adopting amendments to the Standards that would weaken life and fire safety provisions.  The bills were subsequently amended by their sponsors, Delegate James Malone and Senator Roy Dyson, to limit the bill’s provisions to sprinkler systems in residential homes.  MACo remained opposed to the bills, citing the removal of local autonomy in setting building standards and the prohibitive cost of sprinkler systems in certain rural areas of the state.

The Daily Times article examines the strong debate prompted by the bills:

[Senator Jim] Mathias, D-38-Worcester, backed the Senate version of the bill, saying it would save lives.

Meanwhile, Worcester County Commissioners have strongly opposed the measure, saying most residents won’t be able to afford the added costs of adding sprinklers to a new home. They urged Mathias to vote against the bill in a March 21 letter.

“I will try to do my best to mitigate their concerns, but I think we all want to see safe communities,” Mathias said. “This is a significant public safety issue. … I believe in sprinklers.” …

Del. Mike McDermott, R-38B-Worcester, has opposed the measure. He called it “a stumbling block to growth” and an issue of “sovereign rights” for the counties.

The article also discusses the costs of sprinkler systems, which builders estimate can run from $5,000 to $7,000, and their potential impact on affordable housing prices in rural areas.

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