The Senate this morning passed a bill that home-builders love to hate: Sen. Brian Weinstein's SB 6385. They've dubbed the bill "Son of Weinstein" after a similar push by the Mercer Island Democrat last year died in the House -- as this one may, too. (Last year's bill was an effort to make new-home warranties, which critics say are tilted heavily in favor of builders, more meaningful. Weinstein's take on the current warranties: "At best inadequate and at worst despicable.")
This legislation is a sweeping departure from current law, exposing home builders to frivolous lawsuits which will significantly raise insurance prices for contractor liability insurance.
the Spokane builders' group says, predicting that the fallout will be more-expensive, hard-to-find insurance for builders, driving small builders out of the market and costing home buyers more. The real problem, the builders say, is unregistered, illegal contractors.
Weinstein, a successful attorney who specialized in asbestos litigation, says its practically impossible for a home-buyer saddled with shoddy, dangerous contruction to successfully sue.
"This state has a reputation as a liberal state," he said. "When it coes to consumer protection, it isn't there."
Republicans fought the bill, saying it will hurt the industry and drive up home costs.
"The driving force of this economy is chipped away at and the little guy gets one more nail in the coffin," said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Rizville.
And unless they're living in some tent from REI, most lawmakers live in homes, said Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington.
Rep. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, countered that the bill will actually help low- and moderate-income families who don't have the money to hire $300-an-hour lawyers to try to sue a builder. Too many people are stuck with severe home woes under the status quo, he said.
"At least a tent at REI has a warranty," Tom said.