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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Representative Flannigan blasts BIAW for opposing Homeowner's Bill of Rights

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee met in House Hearing Room C of the John L O'Brien Building in Olympia to hold public hearings on two bills that would change Washington State law to protect homebuyers and homeowners.

The first bill, HB 1045, is sponsored by Representative Brendan Williams and is based on Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation from years past.

The second bill, HB 1393, is sponsored by Representative Larry Springer (D-45th District), and is supposedly the product of a task force Springer led at the request of House Speaker Frank Chopp. (We don't know much about what the task force did or when it met; we were never actually invited to participate in it).

Both bills contain a provision establishing a statutory warranty for most new homes, but HB 1045's warranty is more comprehensive than HB 1393's.

Testimony was heard for both bills at the same time. Several victimized homeowners testified first, sharing their stories with the committee.

(The stories were similiar to those featured in our special series Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights from last March).

The Building Industry Association of Washington, the state's most nefarious right wing lobby, also showed up, to (surprise!) oppose both bills.

Appearing before the Judiciary Committee were BIAW General Counsel Timothy Harris and past BIAW President Daimon Doyle.

They trotted out various hyperbolic talking points. Doyle even cited a statistic from a report produced two years ago by the right wing Washington Policy Center claiming that the percentage of contractors who've had claims filed against them was only "less than one and half percent."

Hilariously, Doyle cited the report as an "independent study".

When they had finished rattling off their prepared propoganda, Committee Chair Jamie Pedersen (D-43rd District) asked if any of his fellow legislators had questions for the pair, at which point Representative Dennis Flannigan switched on his microphone and proceeded to say the following.

I'm offended.

I don't hear you telling anything to these people who've been - probably at least one of them - screwed. If lawyers only had one and half percent of them that are crooks, we have laws about them.

If physicians manage to kill your parents, you're probably going to be pissed. People are pissed; I'm pissed.

I've watched this law come up every year in one way or the other, the industry - Master Builders - [has showed up to oppose it]. I would say "Master" is the wrong word used here.

I understand that you two are brilliant and kind and just. I didn't hear a single remedy from you about what the needs are of people who can't afford the lawyers that you cavalierly tell them to run to. If one and a half percent of the time you went to a physician, you died, what would you be trying to do right now?

One and a half percent is those who can afford to come see you for a lawyer. Those are people who have three hundred thousand or four hundred thousand dollars worth of tragedy. Not ten thousand dollars; not when the guy didn't put flashing on my roof.

So I would like to know what you will do. Not what you tell us not to do.
I was in the room when Representative Flannigan delivered these impromptu remarks, and I have to say... watching BIAW's big guns have to sit there and silently listen to this rebuke was immensely satisfying.

The commitee did not take action on either HB 1045 or HB 1393 yesterday. HB 1393 (Springer's bill) is scheduled for executive session a week from today. HB 1045 sadly appears destined to die in committee, but that's to be expected: Speaker Frank Chopp wants Springer's bill to be the vehicle that passes the House.

The State Senate, however, is the chamber where the more polished version of the Homeowner's Bill of Rights has originated in years past. We hope that's the case this session. We'll keep you posted on HB 1393 and any Homeowner's Bill of Rights proposal that gets introduced on the Senate side.


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