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Lawmakers frequently talk about rolling back burdensome government regulations that raise prices to consumers and impose excessive and unnecessary paperwork and costs on small business owners.
Let me give you a real life example of what that means, and why controlling excess regulations is an important issue to continue to address.
In 2014, a bill to mandate the installation of fire sprinkler systems in the construction of new homes that are 4,500 feet or larger was debated and defeated in the legislature. The opposition to this bill was bipartisan, with both Democrats and Republicans voting no.
This bipartisan opposition was due to the fact that mandating fire sprinklers will drive up the cost of housing by at least $10,000. Furthermore, lawmakers believe that if passed, the mandate will soon be required on construction of all new homes, thus making home ownership even harder for lower income families.
In spite of this defeat, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry ignored the will of the legislature and approved the fire sprinkler mandate as part of an update of the state’s building code.
In other words, unelected bureaucrats flaunted the legislature’s action and unilaterally imposed as a “rule” the sprinkler mandate that had been defeated when it was attempted to be passed as a law.
This bureaucratic action required the Builders Association of the Twin Cities to fight – at considerable expense – the imposition of the rule by undertaking costly legal appeals.
Last week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with the Builders Association and stated that the bureaucratically-imposed Sprinkler Rule is not valid.
According to its decision, the Court noted that the Sprinkler Rule violates due process because the "exception for one-family dwellings under 4,500 square feet is arbitrary" and that "such a rule is not based on the application of scientific principles, approved tests, and professional judgment" as required by state law.
In other words, there's no reasoned explanation as to why a new single-family home with 4,500 square feet is mandated by the government to have a sprinkler system, while smaller single-family homes or two-family dwellings of similar size are not required to have a sprinkler system.
The Department of Labor and Industry is reviewing the court’s decision and may exercise its right to appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Assuming they do, the department’s appeal will likely cost state taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
This may mean we the taxpayers could be on the hook, either in the form of higher costs for new home construction if the department succeeds, or by paying unnecessary legal fees for the department to argue for the imposition of a burdensome government regulation the legislature defeated.
While fire sprinklers are an excellent safety feature and should remain an option for homeowners who wish to install them, such an option should not be mandated by state government. I'm pleased the Court of Appeals recognized that government should not impose excessive and costly regulations on homeowners seeking to build a new house and struck down Minnesota's Sprinkler Rule.
In the meantime, I will continue to be ever-vigilant against future attempts at government agencies mandating similar unnecessary government regulations. The fight continues.
For more information on the Court’s action, go to http://bit.ly/1LSJsVh