ICC Government Relations: State and local update
Part two of this feature on the International Code Council’s Government Relations team offers Building Safety Journal readers a glimpse of the team’s activities in state capitals across the nation. This year, the Government Relations team has tracked 882 bills in 44 states and in the District of Columbia and the United States Congress.
For a five-foot woman with a smile as wide as Texas, Kelly Sadler, regional manager of Government Relations for the International Code Council, works the halls of the Texas Legislature with an iron grip for detail and the process of a platoon of blue chip lobbyists. If there is a bill of interest to the Code Council in a hearing, Sadler has lined up the well-honed talking points, best available presenters, large and impressive coalition names, and networking with key legislators and their staffs. It’s a flurry of activity that starts long before the committee gavel sounds.
“It is not that we are always successful, but when we are it’s because we worked hard to talk with everyone concerned. We explain that our codes are updated through an open, transparent governmental consensus process,” Sadler said. “It is necessary to educate citizens, stakeholders and legislators in a concise and accurate manner about the importance and benefits of building safety.”
Early starts are essential to success months later as bills acquire sponsors, get introduced, get heard in committees, and final votes are made in the House and Senate in the state capitals to which Sadler is assigned. Her other two states are Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Sadler said tenacity pays off 100 percent of the time. “Even if you have a good bill, you’ll find out that it’s easy for opposition to build up if you neglect to educate all of the stakeholders and lawmakers on the issue,” she said. “I think tenacity also comes from truly believing in what you are advocating for. Building codes are needed and I believe in them. I won’t give up when it’s right for the common good.”
One of the impressive coalitions Sadler helped to engineer this year passed the adoption of the International Swimming Pool & Spa Code. She said the Texas Pool & Spa Coalition was the lead organization in the committee presentations. Sadler supplied information that was needed in the hearing process and helped line up votes. A similarly impressive coalition Sadler formed made a lot of headway toward the adoption of the International Plumbing Code as a Texas state code. Although the benefits of this proposal were logical and clear, the bill was derailed by a surprising ruling on a slight technical error in the process.
Sadler is an attorney who worked for the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals, reviewing cases in civil and criminal appellate law for 36 counties. From there, she served as an advisor for Governor Rick Perry assigned to several state agencies, including insurance, ethics and the attorney general’s office. Before coming to ICC Government Relations, she worked as a governor’s initiatives manager for the Texas Workforce Commission dealing with workforce development in the building and other trades, and then worked as a lobbyist for the Texas Masonry Council.
“The relationships I cultivated in each of my jobs in the past have led to the passion I have for advocating for building safety as a representative of the Code Council,” she said.
Her family has always been supportive of her career path, especially her father who encouraged her ambitions. A piece of advice she takes to heart came from another colleague, and it fuels her work with the Code Council. “The best professional advice anyone ever gave me was ‘You are the manager of your own career,’” she said. “If you want something, you’re going to have to go after it.”
Dave Nichols stays on top of the Utah Legislature in Salt Lake City even though his base office is in Phoenix, Ariz. The senior regional manager with Government Relations is nearing his goal to get the 2018 updates for the International Building, Plumbing, Mechanical, Fuel Gas, Energy Conservation, Existing Building and Fire Codes approved for the state. At the same time, Nichols has been working with the coalition in Denver to encourage the Colorado State Legislature to pass HB 19–1006, funding the Wildfire Mitigation Grant Program. Specifically, Nichols hopes to include the use of the International Wildland–Urban Interface Code (IWUIC) in the mitigation program and talk with stakeholders this summer about it.
“This is a logical proposal as most jurisdictions having formal community wildfire protection plans typically include language identifying the strategy and advantage of adopting a wildland-urban interface code, like the IWUIC, coupled with current base building and fire code requirements that help ensure a higher level of wildland-urban interface fire hazard mitigation,” he said. “Providing IWUIC adopting jurisdictions with a funding source and tool to help offset some of the additional costs that accompany adoption of a model wildland-urban interface code provides financial relief and may also help encourage and incentivize the adoption of the IWUIC by jurisdictions concerned with the potential costs of adoption to property owners.”
Nichols’ region also includes Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nevada.
In Oregon, Chris Ochoa, senior regional manager, is the Government Relations Liaison with the Oregon Building Officials Association who have two high-priority bills in their sites. One, HB 2420, is a bill that requires that a municipal building official be employed or contracted under a local government.
“There are many smaller jurisdictions that rely on third-party entities to provide building official and inspector support, and it’s believed that this bill would negatively impact those jurisdictions and the third-party entities,” Ochoa said.
The other bill attempts to create a small home (under 400 square feet) specialty code in response to the nationally growing interest in erecting so-called tiny homes. Backers of the bill feel there should be warranty requirements for builders of these homes among other concerns. Ochoa said the legislation, if passed, might have a six-year sunset provision because of changing views about the structures.
Further south, both Ochoa and Government Relations Regional Manager Susan Dowty keep track of the California State Legislature, which meets year-round. Among the bills that concern the built environment community are:
- AB 429 — A high-priority seismic bill focusing on creating an inventory of highly vulnerable buildings in California. A similar bill was vetoed by the governor last year for being too broad, among other deficiencies. This new bill is focused on the 29 most seismically vulnerable counties and has a defined funding mechanism. Backers include the California Building Officials (CALBO).
- AB 393 — Another seismic bill to adopt a functional recovery standard. The bill would require the California Building Standards Commission to form a working group, which includes representation from the Code Council. The issue is one reason the Code Council and CALBO are hosting the 2019 Seismic Roundtable in Sacramento on July 25, 2019.
- SB 190 — The bill has no mandates other than to direct the State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFM) to develop and post on its website educational guides for homeowners in wildland-urban interface areas on how to properly clear vegetation and provide defensible space around your home. The Code Council is working closely with the SFM and Ochoa currently sits on the SFM’s WUI Task Group.
- SB 182 — In response to recent wildfires, this bill restricts residential development in some wildland-urban interface areas. Several organizations have raised concerns that SB 182 goes too far in limiting new home construction. This bill will be hung up for a while in appropriations with major fiscal implications to be heard.
- AB 1067 — This bill would direct the Parks and Recreation Department to develop a wildfire management plan for all Parks and Recreation lands by January 1, 2023. The Code Council has discussed with state leaders the idea of possibly using this bill as a vehicle to introduce the IWUIC to California.
The key bill that Senior Regional Manager Corey Roblee has been watching in Indiana is House Bill 1437, which would require jurisdictions to create higher salary grades for inspectors that obtain Code Council certification. The bill passed the House. Roblee also works with state and local jurisdictions in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Next door in Illinois, Lead Senior Regional Manager Tim Schmitz is trying to stop some proposals that would hurt the code professions. One is HB 305, which would stop the use of public dollars from being used in training at Code Council gatherings.
“The original intent was to prohibit the use of public dollars from helping subsidize conventions, which is one topic,” he said. “But with this language, it would include any lunch training or multiple days of training, and that would be a hardship for too many people in the code profession.”
The bill has caused Code Council chapters around Illinois to coalesce to kill it.
Another bill, HB 3399, sought to include the adoption of Appendix RB from the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), mandating all new homes be built “solar ready.” It now stands a better chance of being passed as it allows the Capital Development Board to voluntarily adopt an appendix or supplement when they review the IECC every three years. Schmitz’s territory also includes Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas.
Further west in America’s heartland, the Nebraska Unicameral created a national milestone in code development. The state legislature has only one chamber, and each Senate seat is nonpartisan, which most observers say shuts down partisan rancor and keeps the door open to problem solving.
The legislature made the state a national leader in the use of the International Energy Code by updating its state IECC from the 2009 edition to the 2018 edition. The legislature also updated its other state International Codes from 2012 to the 2018 editions.
Part three in next week’s Building Safety Journal will present the national view from the Washington, D.C., office desk of Justin Wiley, vice president of Government Relations State and Local Affairs. This final segment will focus on how the Code Council’s Government Relations has cultivated relationships with like-minded associations and stakeholders across the United States to increase effectiveness with decision makers in legislatures and local jurisdictions.