Mandatory requirements designed to detect fire-causing conditions, stop electric shocks and keep children from sticking foreign objects into electrical outlets have been targeted for removal from the state code, according to a governor-approved plan to rewrite the rules to administer the code.Why? Because the Wisconsin Homebuilders Association doesn't like the current rules.
Some electrical inspectors have already lined up against the proposal, which Gov. Scott Walker approved on June 29. The approval authorizes the state's Department of Safety and Professional Services to study the proposed changes, hold hearings and write new administrative rules.
Joe Jameson, electrical inspector for the city of Middleton and president of the South Western Wisconsin Electrical Inspectors Association, said his colleagues are baffled by the proposal, which would remove proven life- and property-saving requirementsSooooo, how about a nice electrical fire at your home courtesy of Scott Walker and his band of merry rule re-writers?
This proposal from the governor's office was not discussed by any of the state's safety councils or building code councils," said Jameson.
Current code requires builders to install arc-fault circuit-interrupter (AFCI) protection, ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection, and tamper-resistant receptacles in new construction and most remodeling.
The new plan would make installation of those devices optional.
Jameson called the proposal "bizarre," saying the safety requirements add about $200 to a typical $200,000 home, and even the proposal notes the "economic impact is minimal."Added safety would seem to be reasonable.
AFCI, which has been required in Wisconsin since 2010 but is a national electrical code requirement, detects electrical arcs from cracked, broken or damaged electrical insulation and shuts off power to the circuit before the arcing leads to a fire, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. An electrical arc can be caused by cracked, broken or damaged electrical insulation on wiring, either within the walls or from a damaged cord. If combustible material is nearby, then the potential for an electrical fire exists.
GFCI, common in construction for decades, protects people from shock, electrocution and thermal burns.
In a statement in response to a Wisconsin State Journal inquiry, the governor's office said: "Governor Walker campaigned on getting government out of the way by ensuring that regulations are science-based and predictable. The change to this rule simply reflects concerns that were raised to DSPS by individuals who construct homes. Instead of mandating the use of these products, this rule change would make it optional."Of course, underwriters for home insurance companies will certainly take this into consideration when someone who purchases one of these "safety optional" homes and tries to get insuance.
Madison city electrical inspector supervisor George Hank said he had heard about the proposal and was "somewhat surprised, as these are life-safety devices. These are small prices to pay for additional safety."
What makes this even worse is that Scott Walker has already not only cut public workers, but devastated state revenue sharing (that portion of the sales tax that should be sent back to cities and counties) so that public services, severely cut already, are being cut more this fiscal year. That means not only less teachers and public health nurses, but less firefighters and police officers, too. Not a good thing when your new rule changes will ensure more fires.
This isn't the first time Walker or his cronies re-wrote the rule book. We're seeing the results of rewriting the rules at our State Capitol where bringing in a sign or using a camera in our State Senate or State Senate galleries will get you arrested (and prosecuted by the Department of Justice because the Walker administration thinks that the Dane County prosecutors and courts just aren't tough enough to meet his needs).
Just how far will Scott Walker go in pleasing his donors now that he's safely in the Governors chair (John Doe Probe notwithstanding) until 2014? He can't ram through legislation anymore thanks to Democratic control of the State Senate, so he's concentrating on changing the rule books where he can.
In other news: Please read John Nichols article on Scott Walkers response to the court ruling on his union-busting Act 10. I'll tantilize you with this:
What was Walker's response to a decision that referenced not just the constitutions that are touchstones of governance and jurisprudence but also a century and a half of Wisconsin case law? Within minutes of the release of the ruling, when the ablest attorneys in the state were only beginning to review it, Walker sputtered: "Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backward and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the Legislature and the governor."It's a short article, but well worth a read. You'll be glad you did.
Instead of responding with a constitutionally grounded defense of a law that legislators and lawyers warned last year would not stand judicial scrutiny, the governor engaged in cheap-shot invective that is as ignorant as it is shameful.
The irony of Walker's wrongheaded response could not be greater. This week, he is touring the state to "celebrate" the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.
Nothing on the John Doe.
MORE more: This is going to leave a mark.
Tommy Thompson has long touted his experience in the private sector, but some of the companies he helps oversee have faced an array of troubles, including claims of making faulty and dangerous medical implants, failing grades from a corporate watchdog and allegations of misleading investors.
A review of filings with federal regulators, court documents and media reports shows that a handful of the companies have been involved in several controversies.Thompson, former Wisconsin Governor before becoming George W. Bushs Secretary of Health and Human Services (the guy that made sure that Medicare Part D was prohibited from negotiating drug prices), left the Bush Administration to become a
"Either he has really bad luck choosing companies . . . or he is one of the directors on company boards who is not exercising sufficient oversight," said Paul Hodgson, chief research analyst at GMI Ratings, a rating agency that this year gave failing marks to three of the six public companies whose boards Thompson sits on.Thompsons official response?
"It is important to note that as a board member, Governor Thompson is not involved in the daily operations of these companies," wrote spokeswoman Lisa Boothe. "Rather, his role, among other things, is to provide a strategic vision to these companies similar to the roles of other directors and officers."The full article is recommended reading and lists the numerous troubles and fines issued to several of the companies he's associated with.
The company that has been involved in the most controversies is C.R. Bard Inc., a New Jersey medical device manufacturer that posted 2011 earnings of $328 million on revenue of $2.9 billion. Thompson joined the company's board in 2005.