Editor’s note: Roll Call is published by the Ethan Allen Institute.
H.157, an act relating to registration of construction contractors, passed in the state Senate on June 24, 2021, by a vote of 21-9.
The purpose of the bill is to mandate that construction contractors register with the state and conform to certain regulatory requirements in order to legally do business on residential homes in Vermont.
Analysis: H.157 requires anyone accepting a residential construction job exceeding $2,500 in labor and materials to register with the Office of Professional Regulation, and sign a written contract with the homeowner before receiving payment or beginning work. Such jobs could include: interior and exterior construction, renovation, and repair; painting; paving; roofing; weatherization; installation or repair of heating, plumbing, solar, electrical, water, or wastewater systems.
Anyone failing to comply can be subject to a civil penalty for “unauthorized practice” which, according to 3 V.S.A. 127 could mean a fine of “not more than $2,500 for practicing or permitting the practice of a regulated profession without authority.”
Individuals practicing residential contracting must pay a $50 fee to register with Vermont every 2 years, down from $75 in the previous version of H.157. Businesses must pay a $200 fee every 2 years, down from $250 in a previous version of H.157. Registrants must show proof of liability insurance coverage at the minimum levels of $300,000 per claim and $1,000,000 total. Individuals can choose to receive extra training to become state certified residential contractors. They would pay $75 for the first area certification and $25 for each additional certification, every 2 years.
Those voting YES believe this bill will help prevent fraud and provide consumer protection when fraud occurs, and create a mechanism for the state to communicate with residential contractors about compliance with existing and future environmental building regulations.
Those voting NO believe the cost of this bill exceeds any potential benefit. (Between 2012 and 2017 there were only 587, not all of which would be covered under this law, consumer complaints with total losses to homeowners of $3.1 million). That’s a $620,000 a year problem, for which H.157 will create up to $287,000 in annual registration fees, plus the other costs to businesses and consumers to comply with contract mandates, etc., decreased supply of contractors, not to mention the social cost of fining workers for handshake deals. Consumers already have small claims court to settle disputes regarding poor work or fraudulent actions by contractors, without expanding the state bureaucracy.
As Recorded in the House Journal, Tuesday, June 24, 2021: “Was read the third time and passed in concurrence with proposal of amendment on a roll call, Yeas 21, Nays 9.” (Read the Journal, p. 1427).
How they voted:
Becca Balint (D-Windham) – YES
Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden) – YES
Joseph Benning (R-Caledonia) – NO
Christopher Bray (D-Addison) – YES
Randy Brock (R-Franklin) – NO
Brian Campion (D-Bennington) – YES
Thomas Chittenden (D-Chittenden) – YES
Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) – YES
Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) – NO
Ann Cummings (D-Washington) – YES
Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) – YES
Cheryl Hooker (D-Rutland) – YES
Russ Ingalls (R-Essex-Orleans) – NO
M. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) – YES
Virginia Lyons (D-Chittenden) – YES
Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) – YES
Richard Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle) – YES
Richard McCormack (D-Windsor) – YES
Alice Nitka (D-Windsor District) – NO
Corey Parent (R-Franklin) – NO
Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) – YES
Andrew Perchlik (D-Washington) – YES
Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) – YES
Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden) – YES
Richard Sears (D-Bennington) – YES
Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) – YES
Robert Starr (D-Essex-Orleans) – NO
Joshua Terenzini (R-Rutland) – NO
Richard Westman (R-Lamoille) – NO
Jeanette White (D-Windham) – YES