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Builders gear up for legislative battles

John Seelmeyer

Sixteen bills in the last legislative session

presented solutions to the construction

defects problem that vexes Nevada’s

builders.

All 16 went down to defeat.

Chastened by the experience, the construction

industry next year seeks to present

a united front to the Legislature a

united front in support of a single bill.

And lobbyists for the industry will be supported

by a focused public relations and

advertising campaign that seeks to convince

residents that the construction

defects issue affects them directly.

The issue is well-documented: Because

of a growing number of lawsuits seeking

damages for construction defects, insurance

premiums for builders have skyrocketed.

At Q&D Builders in Sparks, for

instance, premiums have doubled in the

past year while deductibles have risen to

$10,000 from $250,000.

Other builders have been unable to get

coverage at any price.

“The insurance companies hear

‘Nevada’ and run the other way,” Steve

Hill, chairman of the Coalition for

Fairness in Construction, told a group of

northern Nevada builders last week.

The coalition, a group that involves

builders, real estate interests, insurers and

others, has been working for more than a

year to sharpen its legislative strategy.

Greg Ferraro, the lobbyist hired by the

coalition, said the message to the legislature

will be simple: Builders want the law

changed so that they have the opportunity

to fix a construction defect before a lawsuit

is filed, and they want a clear definition of

what constitutes a construction defect.

A unified front, he said, is critical if the

industry hopes to succeed.

“We’ve been picked apart in the past by

our adversaries because we were divided,”

Ferraro said.

To support the lobbying effort, the

coalition is rolling out a big-time public

relations campaign.

Paid advertising broke in metropolitan

newspapers in Nevada last week. The

coalition’s Web site, http://www.constructioncoalition.

com, has drawn 10,000 hits in

about six weeks.

The next step will bring the campaign

directly to construction workers, said Chris

Ferrari, the public relations consultant to

the coalition.

In coming weeks, construction companies

will be asked to put stuffers into pay

envelopes explaining the industry’s position.

Companies also will make petitions

available to their employees. The coalition

plans to deliver thousands of petition signatures

at the start of the legislative session,

Ferrari said.

The effort to galvanize construction

workforces is significant, coalition organizers

said, because about 10 percent of

Nevada’s paychecks come directly from the

building industry.

Like the focused legislative effort, the

group’s public relations campaign will stick

to a couple of messages:

* If the construction liability issue isn’t

resolved, homes will become less affordable.

* Resolution of the issue will help

reduce crowded court dockets.

State Sen. Randolph Townsend, chairman

of the Senate Commerce Committee,

avowed his support at last week’s meeting

of builders.

“There’s nothing leaving my committee

until this issue is resolved,” he said.

Hill said the coalition’s effort is likely to

be challenged strongly by the state’s trial

lawyers he predicted trial lawyers will

raise $1 million to spend on advertising

and Townsend had harsh words for those

who have brought lawsuits under the existing

legislation.

“What is going on in your industry is

terrorism, and we need to bring it to a

halt,” he told the builders.

Nevada Insurance Commissioner Alice

A. Molasky-Arman this autumn appointed

a Construction Liability Insurance Task

Force to investigate the issue.

Hill, who serves chairman of the task

force, said its work has shown both the

complexity of the issue and the sharp divisions

among groups with a stake in the

outcome.


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