News Story

Schools Will Get No Relief From Construction Mandate, Whitmer Says

Governor vetoes bill that would have exempted schools from requirement to heat outdoor ticket booths

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week vetoed legislation that would have exempted K-12 schools from a construction code requirement covering structures built for use during outdoor sporting events, like press boxes and ticket booths. Under the requirement, the structures must have heating systems capable of maintaining an interior temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

The legislation was passed in response to a complaint by a school district that the cost of planned renovations at its football field and track would increase by $250,000 if state regulators insisted on a heated press box.

In her message to the Legislature explaining the veto, Whitmer said the state code “protect(s) Michiganders from shoddy construction.” Further, she said, stripping “departments of regulatory authority encourages disappointed applicants to ‘appeal’ to the Legislature (and) undermines the effectiveness of state government.”

Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida Township, a lead sponsor of the legislation, was disappointed at Whitmer’s rejection of what he called “commonsense reform.”

"There is nothing in my bill that would have made high school press boxes less safe,” Zorn said in a press release. “By vetoing the bill, the governor will force some schools to continue to use old, outdated facilities.”

He called Whitmer’s rebuke of constituents seeking relief from onerous regulation as a form of special pleading that would somehow undermine government “baffling.”

Zorn and bill co-sponsor Rep. Bronna Kahle, R-Adrian, introduced the legislation after a project at the Madison School District was held up when state regulators determined the school’s press box would be an occupied structure in need of a heating plant. The district later obtained an exemption from the state Construction Code Commission.

Zorn said the notion that Madison’s situation was a one-off is belied by the fact that a project at Hudson Area Schools faces a similar predicament. Construction costs there might have to increase by 25% to comply with the regulation, he said.

The bill was supported by K-12 school groups. According to analyses prepared by legislative staff, it was opposed by various labor organizations, including the Michigan Building Trades Council and unions for plumbers and pipefitters.

Whitmer’s office did not respond to telephone and email requests for comment.