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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Contractors bill nears final vote

Chuck Oxley Associated Press

BOISE – A bill that would require building contractors to register with the state and hold minimal levels of insurance has only one more legislative hurdle to overcome before being sent to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

The Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee on Thursday voted 8-1 to approve the legislation after a contentious hearing in which lawmakers’ common sense was compared to that of dogs and one man briefly refused to leave the podium because he didn’t get equal time to that of the bill’s sponsor.

“We don’t need this kind of legislation, we don’t need any more of this kind of garbage,” said Allen Snell, who described himself as a “real person” and a general contractor from outside the Boise area.

“I believe sometimes you guys over here pass legislation that is total nonsense, and the dog in the back of my pickup has got more common sense than some of the laws and legislation that gets passed here,” Snell told the committee.

The confrontational manner of some of the small-business contractors lined up in opposition against the bill prompted the chairman of the committee, Sen. John Andreason, of Boise, to issue a rare warning: “We’re getting really close to the edge here,” he said.

Harold Harris, a contractor from Sugar City, Idaho, said the bill “intimates that if someone doesn’t have a registration license, they’re either incompetent, irresponsible, unethical or just plain crooked.”

However, the bill is being sponsored by the Idaho Building Contractors Association, whose lobbyist, Jeremy Pisca, contends the bill is meant to be a tool to protect consumers.

“The building contractors association is an association of homebuilders, on average, one to four employees,” Pisca said. “So I do represent the little guys, and it’s my little guys who want this.”

Subcontractor trades, such as electricians, plumbers and HVAC installers, have been regulated by the state for years with license requirements. But Pisca said the building industry has no way to keep “bad actors” out of the business.

The legislation would create a system for contractors to register the names of the business owners with the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses for a fee of not more than $150 a year. It also would allow the state to reject the registration of contractors who prove to be incompetent, dishonest or unprincipled.

Additionally, the bill, which has been passed by the House, would require contractors to certify that they comply with Idaho’s workers’ compensation law and have purchased at least $300,000 in liability insurance.

Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, was the only senator on the committee to vote against the bill. Cameron said he was concerned that it would unintentionally make lawbreakers out of people who perform very small jobs for friends and relatives.

The bill goes to the full Senate. If it passes, it will be sent to the governor’s office, where there has been no indication that it would face a veto.

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