Counties Caught Between Clashing Plumbing Code Legislation

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Leslie Knapp Jr. testified in opposition of SB 643, State Board of Plumbing – State Plumbing Code – Adoption of the International Plumbing and Fuel Gas Codes, and SB 831, State Board of Plumbing – State Plumbing Code – Adoption and Enforcement, to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 25, 2016.

MACo believes neither bill would address any systemic problem or weakness with the State’s current plumbing code system and would ultimately limit local autonomy.

From the MACo SB 643 testimony,

SB 643 requires the State Board of Plumbing to adopt as the State Plumbing Code the 2015 International Plumbing Code (IPC) and International Fuel Gas Code and any subsequent versions published by the International Code Commission. The Board may adopt regulations to amend limited sections of the State Plumbing Code if the plumbing industry presents information to the Board regarding better and safer plumbing materials and installation practices.

This bill is unnecessary. There are no systemic issues with either the implementation or enforcement of the State Plumbing Code or local plumbing codes. The State Board has the authority to amend or adopt a new code as needed.

The current system works and allows for adequate local flexibility to adopt a code that best meets their local conditions and needs while still ensuring safe and functioning plumbing systems.

SB 643 would force counties to adopt the IPC when there is no need. This reduces local autonomy and despite the fiscal note indicating a minimal cost to counties, there will be a cost for those counties that use the NSPC to adopt a new code and retrain their code enforcement personnel.

A bill identical to SB 643, HB 711, will be heard on March 15 in the House.

From the MACo SB 831 testimony,

SB 831 requires the State Board of Plumbing to adopt the National Standard Plumbing Code (NSPC) as the State Plumbing Code. The bill repeals the authority of a county to adopt a local plumbing code in lieu of the State Code and limits a county to amend the State Code in ways that are specific to a local area’s soil, water, or typical seasonal conditions. A local amendment would be subject to approval by the State Board.

Currently, the State Board has adopted the National Standard Plumbing Code (NSPC) as the State Code but may choose to adopt another standardized code, such as the International Plumbing Code (IPC) as it sees fit. Counties may either adopt the State Code or adopt a local code that is equal to or more stringent than the State Code. Fourteen counties use the NSPC or an amended variant, while 10 have adopted the IPC or an amended variant. …

SB 831 would force counties to adopt the NSPC when there is no need and removes their authority to adopt a local plumbing code. This reduces local autonomy and, as the fiscal note indicates, will have a meaningful cost on those counties that currently use the IPC – they must adopt the NSPC and retrain their code enforcement personnel. SB 831 is unnecessary and would reduce local autonomy.

A bill identical to SB 831, HB 1471, will be heard on March 15 in the House.

For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.

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