Missouri Legislature End of Session

In the hectic last few days of the session, state representatives and senators worked unsuccessfully to pass legislation that would have impacted fire sprinkler contractors and the safety of the citizens of Missouri.

The unsuccessful attempt to license fire protection contractors, Senate Bill 559 would have required that any company involved in the design, installation, maintenance, construction, alteration, repair, and inspection of any “fire suppression system” would need to have a statewide mechanical license issued through “Office of Mechanical Contractors”. The bill would require only 8 hours of annual training and ban the acceptance of a journeyman or apprentice license or any license that required passing an examination or basic test to assess proficiency. The new state license would also override all other city or county license. As with any new law, there may be unintended consequences and, in this case, it would have lowered the bar of competency for fire protection and suppression system contractors. There could have been undesirable consequences from unwanted system activation are failure of a system to operate, causing catastrophic property damage or loss of life.

Bill sponsor, Senator Dave Schatz, assured that the language “fire suppression” would be removed just before a final floor vote; however, in the final moments of the session, the language from SB 559 was moved to SB 673, sponsored by Senator Justin Brown. The new bill, SB 673, was a bill that would be acceptable to all Missourians due to a military spouse benefit.

During the final hours of floor debate, it was a relief to hear from State Representative Shane Roden that the bill had little chance of being heard. Thankfully, Representative Roden was prepared to voice opposition to the bill if it was heard.

In another concern, HB 1403, a seemingly simple bill allowing a person to operate a home business without undue government interference became a concern for fire sprinklers. The bill was sponsored by Representative Brad Hudson of Branson and was moving forward. HB 1403 passed the House and went to the Senate before the session ended. The sponsor stated that municipalities would only be allowed to establish regulations for home businesses when they are “narrowly tailored for specified purposes, INCLUDING PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY.” Many people are unaware that most fire deaths occur where people feel safest—in their own homes. Fire does not discriminate; it kills more people in the U.S. annually than all the natural disasters combined. More firefighters lose their lives fighting residential fires than in any other type of fire. The bill would have actually removed the ability for the local government to enforce the current fire code found in most jurisdictions. HB 1403 was considered a threat to public health and safety.

Under the proposed law, the “home-based business” that operates a group home, a care facility, a truck or bus repair shop, or a hazardous chemicals storage would not have to provide fire protection. This is no longer simply a bill limiting government intrusion, but rather ignoring nationally recognized codes and standards.

This fall, NFSA Staff will be meeting with legislators to educate them on the benefits of fire sprinklers and the hazards of combining business and residential occupancies. NFSA encourages our members to meet with their legislators and contact us if they become aware of any legislation related to building and fire codes or fire protection systems.