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 May 21, 2021, by a vote of 20-10.
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 who engages in a residential construction job exceeding $3,500 in labor and materials with work including but not limited to, interior and exterior construction, renovation, and repair; painting; paving; roofing; weatherization; installation or repair of heating, plumbing, solar, electrical, water, or wastewater systems, to register with the Office of Professional Regulation, and to enter into a written contract with the homeowner before receiving payment or beginning work.
In order to register, an applicant must show proof of liability insurance coverage at the minimum levels of $300,000.00 per claim and $1,000,000.00 aggregate, and pay the following fees at initial application and biennial renewal: (1) Registration, individual: $75.00. (2) Registration, business organization: $250.00. (3) State certifications: $75.00 for a first certification and $25.00 for each additional certification.
Anyone failing to comply can be subject civil penalty for “unauthorized practice” which, according to 3 V.S.A. 127 (c), “In addition to other provisions of law, unauthorized practice shall be punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000.00 or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.”
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 an estimated $740,000 annual cost in registration fees, plus other costs to businesses and consumers to comply with contract mandates, etc., decreased supply of contractors, not to mention the social cost of criminalizing handshake deals between homeowners and workers. Mechanisms already exist for consumers to seek redress for poor or fraudulent actions by contractors without expanding the state bureaucracy.
As Recorded in the House Journal, Tuesday, May 21, 2021: “Thereupon, the proposal of amendment of the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs, as amended, was agreed to and third reading of the bill was ordered on a roll call, Yeas 20, Nays 10..” (Read the Journal, p. 1257).
Watch the floor debate on YouTube.
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) – NO
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