VETO MESSAGE - No. 129
TO THE ASSEMBLY:
I am returning herewith, without my approval, the following bill:
Assembly Bill Number 6209 entitled:
"An Act to amend the labor law, in relation to the supervision of fire suppression specialists"
This bill requires the State Fire Administrator to issue two types of fire suppression licenses: "apprentice sprinkler fitters" and "journey- men sprinkler fitters." Apprentice sprinkler fitters must be enrolled in a State registered sprinkler fitter apprenticeship program. Journeymen sprinkler fitters are required to have 10,000 hours of fire suppression experience.
The bill makes any person engaging in fire suppression work without a license guilty of a misdemeanor. For a first offense, an individual may be fined between $100 and $500. Thereafter, each day that an individual performs fire suppression work without a license is considered a separate offense punishable by a fine of $500 to $1,000. This bill exempts fire suppression work in New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties and any person who performs fire suppression work in a one or two family house owned or leased by that person.
There is no question that fire safety is of paramount importance, but this bill has significant flaws, and is not in the best interests of fire protection. Indeed, numerous organizations have recommended that this bill be vetoed, including the Firemen's Association of the State of New York, the American Fire Sprinkler Association, the General Building Contractors of New York State, the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, the International Code Council, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the New York State Building Officials Conference, and the New York State Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association.
First, the bill has an immediate effective date, and thus any unlicensed individual who engages in fire suppression work after the bill is signed would be guilty of a misdemeanor. However, the Office of Fire Prevention and Control within the Department of State does not currently license fire suppression companies or individuals, and thus signing this bill would bring all fire suppression work to a standstill, and to the extent such work continues, the bill would subject workers to immediate arrest.
Second, the bill does not provide any funding for the Department of State to implement this program, which would require the creation of licensing standards, the promulgation of rules and regulations, and the hiring and training of enforcement staff. These activities would require significant resources, and a significant amount of time to implement, which would cause construction delays throughout the State.
Third, the bill seeks to regulate only the installation of water sprinkler systems, but it contains an unnecessarily broad definition of "fire suppression" which covers the installation, repair, testing and servicing of "fire protection systems using emulsifier, spray, water, fog, carbon dioxide, clean agent gas, foam, and dry chemical systems."
Fire suppression professionals generally specialize in one area of fire prevention, such as water sprinkler systems, dry fire suppression, or special hazard fire suppression systems. This bill needlessly requires all fire suppression professions to be enrolled in a water sprinkler fitter apprentice program, even if that individual works in dry fire suppression.
Fourth, the bill creates a bifurcated regulatory scheme whereby upstate counties will be subject to State licensing requirement and downstate counties will be subject local licensing requirement. New York City, for instance, requires that fire suppression be overseen by a licensed contractor, but the individual sprinkler fitters are not required to be licensed.
Finally, the supporters of this bill have failed to provide any evidence that there is a need for the licensing of water sprinkler fitters. Under current law, all sprinkler system plans must be certified by a licensed profession engineer as complying with the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code, and also must be approved by local building code officials. In addition, after a sprinkler system has been installed, if must undergo mandated inspection. Fire suppression experts have indicated to my office that there are very few problems with the manner in which these sprinkler systems are installed, and thus it does not appear that another layer of licensing will have an appreciable effect on public safety.
The bill is disapproved. (signed) ELIOT SPITZER