Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's so hard about helping homeowners?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a great editorial today calling on Speaker Frank Chopp to stop standing in the way of the Homeowner's Bill of Rights (SB 6385) which remains mired in the House Rules Committee.

The editorial links to my post from Sunday identifying seven Democrats who have sided with the BIAW against homeowners:
It's odd -- if not suspicious -- that a bill offering Washington homeowners the same protections as the state's condo owners is dying for the second year in a row. Senate Bill 6385 boils down the builder's responsibility to a warranty, and allows builders the chance to repair damage before anyone goes to court.

So why is Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp yet again killing a bill that would protect this state's homeowners from being on the hook for shoddy construction? It doesn't look good that Chopp has friends at the Building Industry Association of Washington, the bill's main opponent (BIAW executive VP Tom McCabe said he'd love to see Chopp run for governor).

Chopp worries (though he's unable to definitively say how or if) the bill might raise the cost of housing development and contractor insurance rates.
Chopp yesterday released his own "three point plan", which would: Create a new state agency (that would do what?), set up a task force to look at the issue (in other words, a study) and strengthen contractor licensing requirements (which sounds good but won't help families who have been stuck with repair bills for shoddy construction).

Why Chopp is taking the wraps off his own proposal less than seventy two hours before the session is to due to end is a mystery.

He could have done this in January.

Does he really expect the Senate to consider his proposal - which hasn't been introduced as a package of bills, hasn't had public hearings, and hasn't been vetted in committee - when he refused to let the House consider SB 6385 (which has been through the legislative process)?

The Speaker could have leveled with advocates of the Homeowner's Bill of Rights months ago and outlined his position, but he chose not to do so. He did not even release a statement about SB 6385 until after the cutoff on Friday despite intense public pressure in the hours leading up to the cutoff.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's news story about SB 6385 this morning quotes Chopp's deputy, Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, as saying:
The speaker is concerned because Weinstein's bill is all remedy-based and doesn't provide any prevention.
Representative Kessler, has it occurred to you and Speaker Chopp that SB 6385 is remedy-based for a reason? The Homeowner's Bill of Rights is a bill of rights! The whole idea is to have laws that protect innocent families who just want to live in a safe, properly constructed home!

Certainly, prevention is important, but there are people all over this state who are suffering and distraught because something went wrong with their house and the builder walked away from the situation, leaving the family to deal with the mess that the builder created. The law today provides no remedy at all, so those families have simply had to fend for themselves.

We've heard more depressing stories than we care to count. This is a real problem.

A home is the important asset most Washingtonians have. Our homes are where we sleep, prepare food, raise kids, heal when we're sick, enjoy the company of friends, and relax when not working. We shouldn't have to worry about our homes falling apart because of structural defects, or water intrusion, or toxic mold buildup caused by shoddy construction.

Requiring builders to stand behind their work is hardly unreasonable.

More than anything, we'd like to have a candid discussion about the effect Senate Bill 6385 would have if it were law today with the Speaker... but rather than agreeing to have that conversation, Chopp has countered with his own proposal, which doesn't provide any relief for victimized homeowners.


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