Capitol News Bureau

There's One Step Left For Plumbing-Freedom Bill

PIERRE, S.D. - A legislative panel agreed Wednesday people should be able to perform their own plumbing work when building their own homes in South Dakota.

The state Senate's Local Government Committee voted 6-1 to recommend passage of HB 1079.

The measure heads to the 35-member Senate possibly as early as Thursday afternoon. From there it would go to Governor Kristi Noem if there isn't a Senate amendment.

The state House approved it 69-1 on February 6.

South Dakotans already can do repairs and maintenance on plumbing in their existing homes.

But the state Plumbing Commission changed a decades-old practice last year that had allowed owners to do plumbing work as they constructed new homes.

That led Representative Herman Otten, a Lennox Republican, to ask the Legislature this year to make the law clear.

He said homeowners sometimes weren't diligent in the past in following plumbing code.

"When the inspectors would show up, sometimes the homeowner would have to make some corrections, and that happens with the licensed plumbers too. They work the same for one and both," Otten told the committee.

Opposing the legislation Wednesday was Bob Riter, a lobbyist representing the South Dakota Association of Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors.

"Argument could be the only reason we're sitting up here is because it means we're going to have less business. I would submit to you that the reason we're up here today is contaminating drinking water, that it is of consequence," Riter testified.

He added, "Your choice is having someone do it who knows what they're doing, or having a homeowner do it and have the plumbing inspector looking over their shoulder to help correct the issues they have."

In rebuttal, Otten noted: "So the practice has been for the homeowner building their own home to get a permit to plumb it themselves. So it was just a change in interpretation last year that caused that to stop."

Senator Wayne Steinhauer, a Hartford Republican, said he's done work on his place. "The inspector helped me and inspected more carefully than he did on a licensed plumber," Steinhauer said.

Steinhauer added, "I would be incensed if I wasn't allowed to do my own plumbing on my home knowing that it meets the code. If it meets the code, it meets the code."

Senator Susan Wismer, a Britton Democrat, took the other side.

"For every competent homeowner who can handle construction, there's an incompetent one who will use cheap materials and abuse the 48-hour notification," she said.

Wismer said she's had "a little experience" with rural water systems.

"And I've seen a lot of basement damage caused by inadequuate plumbing. Usually it's in existing construction most of the time, not all of the time," she said.


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