The sticky issue of regulating building contractors will get a new hearing this legislative session.
This time, lawmakers will consider registering builders under a bill proposed by the Idaho Building Contractors Association.
The bill would require all contractors to pay $25 to register with the state. All contractors would have to carry $50,000 in general liability insurance and a $50,000 bond.
Some legislators said they are concerned about how those requirements may hurt small contractors and even students who take contracting jobs on the side during the summer.
Pat Harper of the state contractors association said those same concerns have killed registration efforts year after year.
“We can’t have actual licensing, so we’ll settle for registration,” Harper said. “We’ve got to start thinking about the homeowners’ protection rather than these small contractors.”
The North Idaho Building Contractors Association has backed a similar bill at the county level. Victims of Coeur d’Alene contractor Ronald Stratton in Kootenai and Benewah counties have demanded some sort of registration system to protect the public.
Rep. June Judd, D-St. Maries, objected that the legislation would do little to stop the kind of problems Stratton has created. Stratton advertised himself as a licensed, bonded and insured contractor when he was none of those.
A District Court recently ruled that Stratton must pay the state and his victims a total of $180,000.
All states surrounding Idaho have contractor licensing requirements, Harper said. The construction boom in Ada and Kootenai counties has attracted some out-of-state fly-by-night contractors who sometimes underbid local contractors and take the money and run.
But many contractors in North Idaho have said that neither registration nor licensing would stop crooked contractors from defrauding Idahoans. The onus is on the customer to find out if a contractor is legitimate, contractors have said.
Rep. Jeff Alltus, R-Coeur d’Alene, said some sort of registration or licensing might help alleviate the problem but wondered why contractors like Stratton don’t face stronger criminal penalties for fraud.
“When you sit down in a barber’s chair, that person has to have a license to cut your hair, but yet we’ve got people running around the state building homes without any licensing at all.”
Harper said the registration system at least would slow down contractors like Stratton.
The House State Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the bill to decide if it goes to the full House.