Voters may get last word on Rippy law
Foes of a law introduced by state Rep. Gregg Rippy that makes it tougher to sue construction companies for defective work plan to challenge it in the November election.
Two lobbyists are heading an initiative to collect enough signatures to place the construction-defect law on the ballot. Voters would determine if the law should be upheld or stricken.
Rippy said he was surprised to discover the issue could end before voters.
“Yeah, it’s somewhat of a surprise. That’s normally not something that you see a ballot issue on,” he said.
If foes collect the roughly 67,000 signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot, it might be difficult to interest Colorado citizens in the meat of the issue.
“It’s an emotional issue and lends itself easily to sound bites,” he said.
Rippy, a Glenwood Springs Republican and owner of a road-paving company, introduced the bill on the topic for the third session in a row this year. He said he was glad it failed the prior two years because this year’s version is better.
For example, this year’s bill required that contractors be given a chance to remedy complaints made by their customers before the customers could file a lawsuit.
Rippy told an audience in Basalt during a town meeting Thursday that the bill was sorely needed because insurance premium costs are skyrocketing for home builders. The insurance industry tries to spread the cost of claims by spreading them throughout premiums, so a company that does good work can watch its rates skyrocket.
Rippy’s bill limits the amount of damages that can be collected and provides the “right to remedy” provision. Different versions were passed by the state House and Senate, but differences were reconciled in a conference committee. The bill became law April 29 after it was signed by the governor.
Rippy claimed the law will bring down construction costs directly by lowering insurance rates for home builders and indirectly by assuring healthier competition among companies.
But foes like lobbyist Charles Ford contend the law will do nothing to lower insurance rates or make housing more affordable. Home builders already possess the best tool for keeping insurance rates affordable, he claimed.
“If you don’t want high rates don’t do shoddy work,” said Ford, a lobbyist for the city of Blackhawk and the Colorado Water Congress. His clients are affected because the law also limits lawsuits that can be filed on large public works projects.
The battle over the bill “was always framed as an issue between home builders and trial lawyers – two black hats essentially,” noted Ford. Trial lawyers opposed the bill because it can affect settlement. But the consumers – homeowners and local governments – are the ones really affected, he said.
Ford said he finds it ironic that the warranty on his 1992 Ford pickup is better than it would be on a new house.
He agreed with Rippy that it might be difficult to interest the average citizen in the election issue, but that’s a challenge he and lobbyist Freda Poundstone are willing to take.
They are crafting the language of a proposed initiative for the ballot and are working on a title for the ballot question that they hope will draw voter interest. They haven’t started collecting signatures yet, but Ford didn’t anticipate trouble collecting the number needed to qualify for the ballot.
Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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