Senator Blunt Co-Sponsors Legislation to Fix Broken Lead Paint Rule

Sam Clifton, Millstone Homes

As the chairman of the HBA’s legislative advocacy committee, I was pleased to see a bill introduced this week in the U.S. Senate to improve the lead paint rule for home owners and remodelers who must comply with the costly work practices and record keeping requirements of the rule. The Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2012 (S. 2148) was introduced with five original co-sponsors: Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), David Vitter (R-La.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and our very own Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Advocacy requires passion for protecting the way in which we make a living and a commitment to keeping the American Dream of a new home affordable to families. But it also requires a great deal of patience. Some of you will recall that Congressman Blunt – before he was elected Senator in November of 2010 – visited the HBA to listen to industry members about the EPA’s changes to and new requirements of the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule. Since that dialogue, we’ve visited with Senator Blunt and his staff a number of times. They’ve expressed concern as we’ve shared anecdotal information about the additional cost associated with this regulatory issue and the fact that uneducated homeowners are actually more vulnerable now to non-complying contractors than ever before.

Now, in 2012, I want to applaud Sen. Blunt and his colleagues for co-sponsoring this bill to make much-needed improvements to EPA’s lead paint rule during this busy time in Congress. If this effort is successful, it will reduce the regulatory burden for remodelers facing costly penalties for first-time violations like misfiled paperwork and allow home owners to make the final decision about renovations in their homes.

It’s taken some time and some patience but our Senator and others carried the message from contractors like you back to Washington D.C.  And now we have a real chance to affect this policy for the better and return control to the homeowner, where it belongs.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule originally contained an opt-out provision for the homeowner. By removing the opt-out provision in July 2010, the EPA more than doubled the number of homes subject to the LRRP rule, adding an estimated $336 million per year in compliance costs to the remodeling community – without making young children any safer. The bill would reinstate the opt-out provision to allow home owners without small children or pregnant women residing in the home – not the government – to decide whether to require LRRP compliance, allow remodelers to correct paperwork errors without facing full penalties and provide an exemption for emergency renovations. It would also eliminate the requirement that recertification training be “hands on,” preventing remodelers having to travel to training facilities out of their region.

While I know you and I can certainly support the intent of the lead paint rule to prevent childhood lead poisoning, the National Association of Home Builders agrees that the provisions in this bill will encourage greater compliance by home owners. Common sense exemptions for emergency renovations and online recertification training are necessary improvements for remodelers and home owners to fully comply with the rule. My thanks to Senator Blunt for listening, carrying our message to Washington and co-sponsoring this bill. Keep an eye out for emails and calls to action from this HBA and the NAHB as we seek to facilitate your contact with federal officeholders at important points in the process to encourage them to pass this bill.