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Senate Bill 358 (As Passed Senate)
Topic: School Construction
Position: The Department of Consumer and Industry Services supports the bill.
Background: The State Construction Code Act of 1972 does not presently apply to school buildings. School construction, reconstruction, and remodeling are governed 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.
Bill Content: The bill amends Public Act 306 of 1937 by making the Department of Consumer and Industry Services responsible for assuring 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 department is responsible under the bill for performing all plan reviews in school buildings. Inspections would be the responsibility of either an independent third party, the department, or a delegated local enforcing agency. Local enforcement of the code in school buildings would occur only 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. The bill establishes a procedure for safety inspections conducted by the department of schools constructed since implementation of the State Construction Code Act.
A Senate floor amendment is intended to make Section 1 of the act consistent with changes to Section 2 included in Senate Bill 617 to clarify the roles of architects, engineers, and others in supervising the construction of school buildings. The Senate amendment requires that school construction be supervised by an architect, engineer, or another qualified person. Plans and specifications must be prepared by a licensed architect or engineer.
Arguments For: The School Construction Law provides for fire safety inspections but does not require structural inspections of new or renovated school buildings. Such inspections of school construction projects are urgently 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 serious issue 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. Students had to be taught at other locations until the bill was reconstructed. 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: 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 had many supporters. These included the Michigan State AFL-CIO, the Michigan Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan State Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Michigan Townships Association. Organizations representing the schools have typically opposed such bills.
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. The agency currently has enforcement authority under the School Construction Law. 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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