The Kansas fire marshal’s office withdrew proposed statewide building code regulations Wednesday as state legislators prepared to discuss concerns raised by trade groups, unions and municipal governments about the recommendations.
State Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen had proposed including international building and fire codes in state rules and regulations, but others saw the effort as an overreach by the state government. Critics of the fire marshal’s plan reached out by letter to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and Regulations, asking that lawmakers urge the fire marshal’s office not to adopt the regulations.
“This has all the trappings of an attempt to administratively establish statewide trade codes,” the letter says. “There is also a concern that these regulations will result in increased costs for citizens and businesses, without any tangible safety benefit.”
Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a Topeka Republican, said the letter was one of several the committee received regarding the regulations. She and other lawmakers pointed to community concern in pushing Jorgensen to withdraw them at the joint committee meeting at the Capitol.
“I’ve never seen this many people at our meeting,” Schmidt said.
The fire marshal’s office had planned to have a public hearing about the regulations later this month and will now use that time as a comment session.
“It goes back to home rule and people concerned, municipalities concerned about what those changes would be and not really being consulted,” Schmidt said.
Democratic Rep. John Carmichael, of Wichita, said local fire experts who “hold as much or more expertise” than does the state office were not consulted on the regulations Jorgensen proposed. Carmichael said the regulations might not have significant negative impact if Jorgensen concentrated on elements tied to life and safety.
“That’s fine and that’s what it should be,” Carmichael said, “but the regulations are much, much broader and a different state fire marshal on a different day could take very different action, which would have serious financial consequences for the construction industry and the people who are wanting to build new buildings.”
Carmichael and other lawmakers also pressed Brad Burke, a deputy secretary and attorney with the Kansas Department of Labor, over how the department would implement a law passed earlier this year by the Legislature that increased inspection and recordkeeping requirements for amusement ride operators.
“They don’t know how many audits they’re going to be able to perform,” Carmichael said. “They say we’re going to have random audits basically whenever we’re in town for some other purpose.”
He and House Democratic Leader Jim Ward, of Wichita, also expressed apprehension that the department would not have enough employees with the expertise to audit independent inspections of rides.
“Just like with any sort of regulatory enforcement — if we had 100 inspectors or 100 auditors, sure, we could do a lot more,” Burke said. “We do the best with what we have.”
Burke acknowledged during the meeting that the department and ride owners had to scramble to come into compliance with the new law that went into effect in July and that some ride owners had decided to close their rides.