“After given everything that’s gone on, why in God’s name would the legislature try to pass something where you don’t need a license with water heaters, especially in this situation?” – Scott Smith, Water Defense
Admittedly, if a homeowner is intent upon bypassing contractor licensing requirements to install a new water heater, they probably wouldn’t let Michigan Compiled Law stand in their way, but if several Republican lawmakers have their say, the practice would become the norm. Rep. Dan Lauwers (R-81), along with two of his colleagues, have introduced legislation to eliminate occupational licensing for the installation of hot water heaters.
At first blush, one might believe the proposal is meant to help Flint residents expedite important repairs to their compromised plumbing. After all, the Flint water crisis task force recommended remedial action for the city’s households specifically citing that water heaters have been damaged — in some cases causing explosions. However, aiding Flint homeowners is not likely the impetus behind the bill.
When something smells fishy with GOP legislation, typically there are found some sketchy characters lurking in the shadows, and this is no exception. As part of a nationwide push to eliminate licensing of the trades as a rule, the Michigan proposal fits-in squarely with the Koch brother’s plan.
The Koch political machine has been busy persuading state legislatures to dismantle occupational licensing requirements. Mark Holden, the Koch’s point man, given seemingly unlimited resources to lobby on their behalf, explained to USA Today “we don’t constrain ourselves by a budget.” The publicly visible portion of their campaign can be found on the editorial pages of numerous newspapers across the country, with a stock letter penned by Holden, identical in every detail except for the name of the state. You can read the letter published in the Detroit News HERE.
The Koch plan has found some support within the Obama administration, which is also calling for easing of some requirements. But, is this a good idea for hot water heater installers — where knowledge of plumbing, electrical, and gas lines is critical to ensure safety?
Rep. Lauwers defended his legislation as “common-sense.” This would come as a shock to Scott Smith, lead investigator at Water Defense, a non-profit founded by actor/activist Mark Ruffalo. Smith, who has been working with the plumbers union to test Flint water, was a guest on The Tom Sumner Program this week discussing the rigors of properly testing and retesting Flint water at all points. Smith, more than once stated that “common-sense” is apparently not very common as evidenced by the way state officials have bungled this crisis time and again. In particular he mentioned the notion of using non-licensed hot water heater installers as an example of the paucity of sound judgement.
“After given everything that’s gone on, why in God’s name would the legislature try to pass something where you don’t need a license with water heaters, especially in this situation?”
Welcome to the “water wonderland” that is Michigan Mr. Smith.