HARRISBURG, April 6, 2011 – State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione today fought changes in Pennsylvania’s construction code process that she said are intended to favor special interests over consumer protection.

            “It took seven years and the effort of thousands of people to create Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code,” she said. “We knew that we weren’t going to make all the people happy all the time. But we also knew that the importance of leaving safety to the experts and taking politics out of the process outweighed the special interests.”

            At a Senate Labor and Industry Committee meeting today, Tartaglione voted and spoke out against a House bill waiving Pennsylvania’s sprinkler requirement, and amendments that would stall future modernization of the state construction code.

            In 1999, Pennsylvania passed a Uniform Construction Code that corresponded with updates from national and international building codes.  In 2008, the legislature created a 19-member Review and Advisory Committee (RAC) to recommend which changes in the international code should be omitted from the state code.

            The RAC drew the ire of state builders’ groups when it voted to approve the national code requirement of automatic sprinkler systems in single family homes and duplexes. 

            Amendments that passed the Labor and Industry Committee today call for a two-thirds vote of the RAC to approve any changes in the statewide construction code.

            “It’s hard to believe that members of the Senate would suggest that a majority vote isn’t enough,” Tartaglione said. “The amendments are intended to kill modernization of the building code and put the politics back into the process.”

            Tartaglione has been a supporter of the sprinkler requirement because new, lightweight building materials burn and collapse much faster than traditional lumber construction, putting firefighters at greater risk than ever.   Two independent studies have shown that the time firefighters have from the time a fire starts to the time when a building becomes too dangerous to be in has dropped from 17 minutes to four minutes over the past 30 years.

            “Money-saving materials make sprinklers a necessity in modern construction,” Tartaglione said. “I don’t see how we can ask our firefighters to put themselves at risk without updating the building codes to minimize it.”

            Despite Tartaglione’s opposition, and her request for a hearing on the RAC changes, the Senate Labor and Industry Committee reported House Bill 377 to the full Senate for a vote.