Various states’ legislators have taken sides in the debate over the IRC mandatory residential sprinkler requirement. Two states have my support, but one definitely doesn’t.

Thank You, New Jersey and Pennsylvania

The state of New Jersey became the first state to vote in support of adopting the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) with mandatory residential sprinkler requirements. The vote was by the State of New Jersey Uniform Construction Code Advisory Board (CAB).

CAB made one slight modification to the sprinkler requirements. Rather than an effective date of Jan. 1, 2011, they pushed it back a year to Jan. 1, 2012. This was done at the request of the homebuilders because of the difficult economic times.

It was interesting to note that the vote to adopt the 2009 IRC was unanimous. CAB includes representatives from the homebuilders. Unlike certain other states, the homebuilders in New Jersey have understood the importance of residential sprinklers. That doesn’t mean they unanimously support the mandating of sprinklers. But they do understand the trend to go in that direction.

The vote by CAB is a very important step in the adoption process. Once CAB makes a recommendation, it is passed forward to the Department of Community Affairs Commissioner and the legal department. Once the Commissioner and legal department sign off on the recommendation, it then moves forward to the Governor’s office. After the Governor signs off on the proposal, it is published in the New Jersey Register.

When I asked about the actual adoption date of the 2009 IRC, I was informed that the state intends to have the code adopted before the end of 2009. Thus, the 2009 edition of the code would become law within 2009. That is quite an accomplishment for a state adoption!

A week after the state of New Jersey recommended adoption of the 2009 IRC, the state of Pennsylvania had a similar recommendation from their code review committee. They recommended adoption of the 2009 IRC without amendments - meaning that the sprinkler mandate for one- and two-family dwellings would be Jan. 1, 2011.

Both states are to be congratulated for a job well done.

Following the decision by NJ CAB, one of the Assemblywomen posted a ridiculous comment on her Web site regarding the vote. Her statement was, “There is a limit as to how far government should interject itself into areas that should be decided by the consumer. The housing industry is mired in a slump not seen in generations and shows little sign of improvement. For prospective buyers, adding $10,000 to the cost of a new house can make the difference in whether or not they make the purchase.”

I realize that she is a politician and politicians are supposed to make absurd comments. So I wondered what district this Assemblywoman represented. As it turns out, she represents my mother’s and brother’s district.

Let me tell you a little about Bergen County, where I grew up. It is not what you would consider a poor county. At one time, it was considered the third richest county in the country. A three-bedroom shack built in the 1920s recently sold for more than a half-million dollars.

It is understandable that a residential sprinkler system in Bergen County could add $10,000 to the cost of construction of a new home. They build nothing but McMansions in her district, and the construction costs in Bergen County are higher than many other parts of the country. But that won’t be reflected in the cost of the home because new homes in Bergen County sell for whatever the market will bear. Plus, everyone knows that a sprinklered new home is more desirable than an existing, non-sprinklered home. Hence, sprinklers are actually a great marketing tool to stimulate the new housing market over the existing housing market.

Boycott North Dakota

Living a mile from the Illinois border (in Indiana), I got to witness on a daily basis the trials and tribulations of the Governor Blago fiasco. What former Governor Rod Blagojevich proved to the world is that politicians really are for sale. Did we ever doubt that?

Most of us were raised to have faith in our elected officials. I still do. But I get very disappointed that money so easily can buy a vote. Okay, we can’t call it money; we call it “campaign contributions.” No matter what you call it, politicians have been bought and sold since the beginning of our country. Our only recourse is to vote them out of office.

Perhaps the citizens of North Dakota will vote their politicians out of office the next election. The North Dakota politicians proved how little it costs to be bought and sold by the homebuilders. This was done at the sacrifice of the citizens of the state.

This past April, the Governor of North Dakota signed into law a bill that prohibits any jurisdiction from adopting a code that mandates residential sprinklers in one- or two-family dwellings. The National Association of Home Builders touted this as a major victory for the homebuilders. But I saw it as a disgusting display of buying politicians.

A week after the bill was signed into law, two people died in home fires in North Dakota.

This reminded me of classes that I took when I was studying to be an officer in the military. One of the classes dealt with acceptable levels of casualties on the battlefield. Part of your assignment was to design an offensive attack in which you listed the potential casualties.

This was a tough assignment. I remember my plan: I listed zero casualties. It wasn’t the most aggressive plan, but I would have spared the lives of all of my soldiers. I was the only one who received an “A” for that assignment. That lesson has stuck with me for a long time. As the Colonel who was teaching the course stated, “You don’t play with peoples’ lives. You do everything possible to save them.”

In North Dakota, the politicians should have taken this class. How many lives is a campaign contribution worth? How many dollars can a politician raise for each citizen that would die in a fire, or be permanently scarred?

So I have decided to boycott North Dakota. I would rather spend my money in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, which I have done since they passed recommendations to adopt the 2009 International Residential Code with mandatory sprinkler requirements. As for North Dakota, I’m not spending a dime. I hope you join me in boycotting the state. If you live in the state, it is time to throw the bums out.