House committee approves bill directed at ‘unlicensed plumbers’
Will plumbers in Idaho soon be prohibited from performing tasks that they have previously done? And will property owners soon discover that they are being forced to hire a “licensed plumber,” even if they’re capable of taking care of their own plumbing needs?
“That is not the way I read the bill,” Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, told IdahoReporter.com. “There are exceptions written into this bill that allow for sufficient flexibilities for property owners.”
“I initially thought that I would vote in favor of this,” Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, noted to Steve Keys, from the Idaho Department of Building Safety, who testified in favor of the bill. “It appears at first glance that the bill allows for exceptions for privately owned property, yet reading it in greater detail it appears you’ve created an exception within the exception, and you’re seeking to restrict private business owners from performing certain plumbing tasks, even if they are quite capable of doing so.”
“You could interpret it that way,” Keys replied. “From our vantage point, this is a public safety issue. What you do in your own house potentially puts you and your family at risk, but what you do in a place of business potentially puts other people at risk.”
Keys presented House Bill 27 to members of the House Business Committee Thursday. The bill seeks to restrict the scope of work that can be performed by unlicensed, so-called "construction plumbers," and it even proposes to eliminate that category of plumber altogether. Instead of allowing these individuals to perform "alterations, extensions, repairs and new construction," the bill would restrict unlicensed plumbers to only doing "repairs and replacements."
“Are we trying to remedy an actual problem?” Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, asked Keys. “Has there been some sort of cataclysmic accident with an unlicensed plumber?”
Keys referenced to “an incident” involving an unlicensed plumber, and work that was done on commercial business property.
“Why are we seeking this licensure requirement if you can only account for one problematic incident with an unlicensed plumber?” asked Batt.
“Traditionally it has been the case that unlicensed plumbers only do maintenance work,” Keys replied.
Rep. Brandon Hixon, R-Caldwell, asked Keys what the consequences would be for somebody who was caught violating the law for performing certain types of plumbing tasks without a license.
Keys noted that such violations full under the misdemeanor category, and can also be subject to civil penalties.
“I think I see what they’re (Department of Building Safety) trying to do here,” said Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian. “They’re just trying to clarify things and make things easier for owners of buildings. They’re drawing a line in the sand, and the sand is movin’ around.”
A majority of the committee members voted to send HB 27 to the full House for a vote, with Batt and Barbieri voting “no.”
“We should not be crafting new bills based on one single incident of a problem,” Batt told IdahoReporter.com after the hearing. “I support licensed plumbers, and I have worked with them to support many of their issues. But this bill places an unnecessary restriction on private business property owners.”