Another veto battle

We know about the ruckus caused by HB770. Another once-obscure bill that has generated post-session controversy is SB1410, which has firefighters up in arms.

Texas firefighters and others who value “local control’ want Gov. Rick Perry to veto legislation prohibiting cities from passing ordinances requiring fire sprinklers in new residential homes.

Homebuilders want Perry to sign the law because, they say, it would make new homes too expensive if cities were to require fire sprinklers.

“Fire sprinklers make up for human error. Residential fire sprinklers are the only system that can be put into a home today that will stop a fire before it reaches a deadly proportion,” Dallas Fire Chief Eddie Burns said Monday.

More than 40 Texas fire chiefs gathered near the Governor’s Mansion, which an arsonist torched one year ago.

Houston Assistant Fire Chief Karen Dupont was particularly blunt about SB 1410 – the legislation firefighters want Perry to veto.

“By prohibiting the enactment of any local laws that would require fire sprinklers in your homes, the Texas Legislature has mandated substandard housing in the state of Texas,” Dupont said. “This bill would not allow Texas cities require homes to be built in compliance with nationally recognized codes and standards.”

But the Texas Association of Builders has sent a letter to Perry urging him to sign the bill. Texas homebuilder Bob Perry (no relation) is one of the governor’s largest campaign contributors. And other homebuilders also have been generous to the governor.

What’s he going to do? Go against “local control” and the firefighters? Or, go against his campaign supporters?

Here’s some more coverage from around the state on the firefighters’ plea for a veto. Rick Casey jumped on it over the weekend, as SB1410 would have a direct local effect.

The law would not take effect until Sept. 1, but it retroactively voids all local ordinances passed since Jan. 1, including one that West U. passed last month mandating sprinkler systems in all new homes.

The amendment was attached to a Senate bill by Rep. John Otto of Dayton, a small town northeast of Houston, who had failed to get his own bill on the subject to the House floor.

West U. Mayor Bob Kelly this week sent Gov. Rick Perry a letter asking him to veto the bill.

Mayor Kelly told the governor the issue wasn’t so much the ordinance itself, but the “assault on local control.”

Dayton is in a rural area “with entirely different dynamics than our urban community,” Kelly wrote. He said West U. building codes should not be made in Otto’s Liberty County.

“Local control has always been a fundamental tenet of your philosophy of government,” the mayor wrote the governor. “The amended Senate Bill 1410 attacks that philosophy. We strongly urge your veto.”

You can see the text of Rep. Otto’s amendment here. Mayor Kelly’s argument is convincing to me. If a particular city wants to impose this regulation, knowing full well the effect it would have on home prices (which, as Casey points out, would be chump change for your typical West U swankienda), I think they should have the right to do so. The voters of West U or Plano (which has an ordinance requiring sprinklers for houses of 6000 square feet or more) or wherever are perfectly capable of voting the bums out if they don’t like it. I’d side with the builders if this were a fight about a state requirement to include sprinklers in new construction, but I see no reason to forbid a city that wants to do it. I agree with the firefighters – SB1410 should be rejected.

UPDATE: And here’s SB1410 House sponsor Rep. John Otto with the case for the residential sprinkler ban.

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