In the second party-line vote in two days, the Assembly Tuesday approved a bill designed to reduce construction defect lawsuits.
The vote was 25-17 with all Democrats in the lower house opposed to AB125. They say the bill makes it much harder for a homeowner to get construction defects fixed.
The Assembly action follows Monday’s vote in the Senate to exempt school construction projects from the prevailing wage requirements.
Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, said AB125 is an important step in fixing a law that’s broken. He said fewer lawsuits will lower insurance rates and, therefore, construction costs.
“This will continue to allow lawsuits when there is a real defect,” he said.
Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, said under the existing law, the homeowner “only gets a tiny sliver of this.”
“Trial lawyer groups have gotten literally hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.
Hansen said the changes will encourage builders to fix problems while the current law encourages people instead to go to court.
Hansen, a plumbing contractor, has “been involved in many of these,” he told the body.
He pointed out only a single lobbyist for trial lawyers opposed the bill during a committee hearing. Homeowners and contractors are poised to benefit from the bill passing, he said.
“What this bill really does is provide equity for homeowners and contractors,” Hansen said on the Assembly floor. “This is about the homeowners? Where are the homeowners?”
Olivia Diaz, D-North Las Vegas, said she was concerned the bill “places most of the burden on the individual.” And James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, said it puts roadblocks in the path of those seeking to buy a home.
Hansen said after the vote he has been a plumbing contractor for 29 years and this bill has been badly needed for many of those years.
Holding a pocket Constitution, Democratic Assemblyman James Ohrenschall referenced the British Magna Carta and other historical pieces of legislation in a floor speech opposing the bill, saying it would take away the rights of homeowners.
The bill passed out of committee on Friday along an 8-5 party-line vote, and lawmakers on Tuesday voted to suspend Assembly procedure to vote on the bill a day early.
Lawmakers also approved an amendment that removes the possibility of criminal penalties for homeowners if they wrongly describe their defect.
AB125 was forwarded to the Senate for consideration.