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Senate Bill 358 (As Introduced) - 4/01
Topic: School Construction
Position: The Department of Consumer and Industry Services supports the bill with amendments. The department recommends that amendments adopted by the Senate to Senate Bill 805 in 2000 be incorporated into the current bill.
Background: The State Construction Code Act of 1972 does not presently apply to school buildings. Construction, reconstruction and remodeling in schools is covered by the provisions of Act 306 of 1937. This act establishes standards for school construction and provides for inspection of a school building by the State Fire Marshal to determine whether or not construction complies with Act 306. In addition, the Superintendent of Public Instruction has a formal agreement with the Office of Fire Safety in the Department of Consumer and Industry Services to serve as the Superintendent's agent for school construction approval.
Description of Bill: The bill amends Public Act 306 of 1937 by making the Executive Director of the Bureau of Construction Codes in the Department of Labor responsible for the administration and enforcement of Public Act 306 and the State Construction Code Act of 1972 (now called the Stille-DeRossett-Hale Single Construction Code Act) in school buildings. The Executive Director would be responsible under the bill for performing all plan reviews and inspections in school buildings. The Executive Director would also be required to delegate responsibility for administration and enforcement of the act to the appropriate agency if both the school board and the local governing body certify to the Construction Code Commission that full-time registered code officials will conduct plan reviews and inspections of school buildings.
Arguments For: Structural inspections of school construction projects are needed. The current law does not adequately address the structural aspects of a school construction project. Unlike the State Construction Code, which is based on national codes and is regularly updated, the standards in Act 306 provide little protection to the public and the children, teachers and other staff using school buildings. A few years ago there was a problem in a new Woodhaven school in which the exterior walls were not connected to the structural steel framing system. This flaw resulted in the almost total reconstruction of the school. There have been construction problems reported for other projects. These include a defective roof on a Petoskey school built in 1990 and ventilation problems in Gaylord's new high school built in 1994.
Arguments Against: In its current form the bill is flawed. Drafting errors include reference to the Department of Labor and the Executive Director of the Bureau of Construction Codes, both of which were changed in 1996 by executive order. The bill may also be unconstitutional in that it amends the State Construction Code Act by reference. Section 9 (8) and Section 8b (8) of the Stille-DeRossett-Hale Single State Construction Code Act exempts school buildings from written approval of plans and specifications and the design and construction requirements of the code.
Many of the construction requirements in Act 306 are archaic. For instance Section 1 (b) of the act requires that all walls, floors, partitions, and roofs be constructed of fire-resisting materials such as stone, brick, tile, concrete, gypsum, steel, or similar fire-resisting material. This section was written in 1937 and does not reflect over a half century of progress in the development and use of fire-resistant building materials. Today, a variety of wood products are used regularly in schools. Maintaining such archaic language in the statute sets up a conflict with the state's building code, which does permit the use of other materials in certain applications.
Supporters/Opponents: A similar bill in 1998 was supported by the Michigan State AFL- CIO, the Michigan Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, the Michigan Municipal League, and the Michigan Townships Association, the Michigan State Building and Construction Trades Council. The bill was opposed by the Michigan Association of School Administrators, the Michigan Association of School Boards and the Michigan School Business Officials Association.
Fiscal Analysis: The bill affects the Bureau of Construction Codes and the Office of Fire Safety in the Department of Consumer and Industry Services. The Bureau of Construction Codes believes that fees charged under the State Construction Code Act for permits, plan reviews and inspections will cover the cost of increased responsibilities.
The Office of Fire Safety would also be affected, because its enforcement authority under the current school construction law would be ended. Fee revenues to the Office of Fire Safety for plan reviews and inspections under Act 306 would be eliminated. However, the Office of Fire Safety would continue to have responsibilities for plan reviews and inspections in schools under the provisions of Section 3c of Act 206 of 1941, the Fire Prevention Code.
Administrative Rules Impact: No administrative rules are authorized under this bill.
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