While many in Washington focused their attention this fall on the Supreme Court nominations, funding disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina survivors, and the war in Iraq, BOMA Intl.’s state and local advocates kept their eyes on the states, where preparations for the 2006 legislative sessions are already under way - and where real estate’s issues of concern have become much more predominant.
Disaster Preparedness. Following the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Katrina, state and local governments across the country paused to re-examine their disaster preparedness plans.
The New Hampshire Legislature met in special session to discuss emergency plans and focus on ways the state would handle mass evacuations from Boston and New York City. Hawaii is considering a plan to allocate $4 million in state funds over 2 years for disaster preparedness. Next year, Katrina will undoubtedly weigh heavily on legislators’ agendas.
Mold. Legislatures in 10 states - Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Virginia - dealt with the mold issue. Three states - Florida, New Jersey, and New York - addressed mold remediation in commercial real estate. In Florida, House Bill 117 provided certification guidelines for those who engage in business as a contractor with a focus on mold or mold remediation that is not incidental to the scope of his or her license. The bill died in committee.
Introduced in 2004 and carried over to the 2005 legislative session, the New Jersey Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2004 (Senate Bill 1249) would create a mold task force designed to advise the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Community Affairs on the development of standards for permissible exposure limits to mold in an indoor environment; guidelines for the identification of the presence of mold; guidelines for the assessment of the health risk posed by the presence of mold and remediation guidelines; and procedures for the abatement of a mold hazard. The bill also requires the disclosure of the presence of mold by a person selling or leasing a commercial or industrial building. Finally, it requires a lessee who knows that mold is present in the building to inform the owner. The bill is currently in the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
A similar bill, the New York Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act of 2005, would enact a state program to provide research and education on the dangers of toxic mold, require inspections of residential property, and establish a toxic mold hazard program. It would further require the state Department of Environmental Conservation to promulgate rules and regulations that include standards for mold radiation and standards for the certification of mold remediators. The bill is currently in the Senate Health Committee.
Intl. Codes. Forty-four states and more than 750 local jurisdictions have adopted the Intl. Building Code. As other states and localities wrestle with the issue, local BOMA associations have become an integral part of the codes adoption process through their successful advocacy efforts.
In 2005, BOMA Texas was active in securing the passage of Senate Bill 1458, which Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law on June 17. The legislation adopts the Intl. Building Code as the municipal commercial building code in the state. It applies to all commercial buildings for which construction begins on or after Jan. 1, 2006, and to any alteration, remodeling, enlargement, or repair of those commercial buildings. The law provides that any municipality that has adopted a more stringent commercial building code before Jan. 1, 2006, is not required to repeal that code and may adopt future editions of that code.
Telecommunications. In 2005, telecommunications “forced access” legislation and proposed regulations appeared in many states, especially in the Southeast and Southwest. During Florida’s legislative session, State Senator Mike Haridopolos (R-Melbourne) introduced legislation providing mandatory access not just for telecommunications providers but also for providers of Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP). The bill would have permitted cable and data companies that might not otherwise fit the definition of a telecommunications provider to be eligible to demand mandatory access. Fortunately, the legislation died in the Senate Communications and Public Utilities Committee, which was instructed to study the issue. In its final report, released in September, committee staff recommended that no mandatory access legislation be filed at this time. The telecommunications industry also targeted Arizona (commercial real estate advocates successfully lobbied), New Mexico (legislation died in committee), and Massachusetts (still under consideration at press time).
For more information on the issues discussed in this column, visit (www.boma.org) or call BOMA Intl. at(202) 408-2662.