There is nothing wrong with “streamlining,” whether it comes to a business shrinking to deal with a competitive market or state officials looking at regulations that may be outdated or too cumbersome.
In state House Bill 255, Republican Rep. Mark Brody of Monroe proposes to make the home inspection process more efficient by reducing multiple inspections and creating a committee to review changes to the state’s building code. Brody happens to be a building contractor.
Aside from what would appear to be a pretty self-serving piece of legislation, Brody’s proposal seems like a change for no reason. Is the current system really so broken?
And the bill, in the course of being, we hope, reviewed along the way, would be helped with pro and con views from those in the industry that would be most affected – mostly it seems in a favorable way. In other words, from home builders themselves.
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Benefiting the industry is not a bad thing in and of itself, but this is an example of the legislature’s reaching down into the jurisdiction of local government. Brody would ban those local governments from using revenues from inspection fees for unrelated expenses. In other words, they couldn’t use any money from that resource for their own infrastructure. The lawmaker’s logic is that multiple inspections are a “cash generator” for local governments.
So what? Local government uses revenue for a multiple of purposes, and revenue comes from many sources. It is the task of those city councils and county commissioners to serve the needs of their communities. It is not the task of state lawmakers to tell them how they can do it, or to hold the purse strings for locally elected officials. This has been happening too much on Jones Street.
And there are a couple of highly questionable items in the bill, including provisions that list violations that could put a building inspector’s certification in jeopardy, things like “habitual failure” to do timely inspections (in other words, when the builder wants them) or trying to enforce requirements “more stringent” than the building code.
No higher standards than the minimum in North Carolina, by golly.
The way things work now, inspectors in some places will not complete their full inspections until any first-inspection violations have been fixed. Then a second inspection is scheduled. The bill would require inspections to be completed “in a timely manner” and include a complete list of code violations.
The head of the N.C. Building Inspectors Association, Dan Dockery, says the provisions in the bill would let a home builder call in an inspector before construction of a home was complete. “A guy who builds a thousand houses a year is able to make a building inspector be a superintendent for him,” Dockery said.
And the N.C. League of Municipalities, representing cities and towns, is against the bill because of the potentially punitive disciplinary rules for inspectors. The league thinks this would make it tougher to find people to do housing inspections, and it’s right.
Brody even opposed the idea of putting someone from the N.C. State Firemen’s Association on the board of his review panel. He said he was concerned that the group might try to require sprinklers in all new homes. He did reverse himself on that one.
Still, his hesitation to do so only underlines the at-least-implied intent of his legislation: to make things easier for one industry without enough input from others involved in that industry.
Brody’s bill meddles in the rights and powers of local government, fixes something that doesn’t appear to be broken and helps one specific group to which he personally happens to be connected. That does not add to the credibility of what he’s trying to do with his bill. It may be a long-standing custom, of Democrats and Republicans in the legislature, but it’s not a good one.