Bill increasing oversight of licensed contractors advances past Assembly committee

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Following closely behind the anniversary of the balcony collapse last June, a Senate bill advanced past the state Assembly on Tuesday, mandating that licensed contractors report any convictions of felonies or other crimes to the Contractors’ State License Board.

A previous version of Senate Bill 465 — currently authored by Senators Jerry Hill and Loni Hancock — was nearly passed last year but was defeated because of concerns that the language was too broad and may have led to unexpected consequences. The bill’s initial drafts included provisions requiring licensed contractors to report large settlements resulting from building deficits, a requirement that lawyers have faulted because of concerns that settlement agreements fail to determine liability.

The advancement of the bill, which addresses concerns regarding building codes and problematic practices by contractors that emerged following the balcony collapse that killed six last year and injured seven, came as a result of several amendments that would require the board to conduct a study into whether reporting of judgments, settlements and arbitrations against a contractor would increase public safety.

According to Mayor Tom Bates, the bill is “a step in the right direction” toward addressing the concerns that arose following the balcony collapse. Bates said that making changes to existing building codes requires evidence, much of which may be collected by the study mandated by the new legislation. But he did express concern with the timeline specified in the bill.

“I’d like to see (the bill’s mandates) take effect sooner and not have to wait until 2018, but I think it’s what’s possible right now,” Bates said.

The bill calls for the results of the study to be reported to the legislature by Jan. 1, 2018, as well as the results of an investigation led by a working group regarding existing building standards. The group, ordered to convene by the amended version of the bill, would also be responsible for making changes to the California Building Standards Code if necessary changes became evident.

Since the collapse, the city has responded with stricter building construction regulations and inspections of existing buildings meant to prevent water damage from moisture, the cause of last year’s collapse.

Contact Trevor Greenan at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @trevor_greenan.