San Francisco remodeler Mike Hamman, of Michael Hamman General Contractors, says from cities to mature suburbs, residents increasingly want a voice about what is being built in their neighborhoods. Hamman believes the trend of people moving to urban areas and making substantial changes to existing structures will drive an increase in notification bills.

Remodeler Jeff King of Jeff King & Co., also in San Francisco, says that the notification bill is understandable in a city such as his, where buildings are densely packed property line to property line. “It’s the city’s way of keeping hearings out of the building department,” he says.

Kyle T. Webster

Earlier this year, a councilman in Montgomery County, Md., introduced a bill that would require homeowners to notify adjacent property owners 30 days in advance of their intention to file a building permit. Raquel Montenegro, associate director with Maryland National Capital Building Industry Association (MNCBIA), says the bill has been delayed for vote for the next session but that the MNCBIA will follow the bill and continue the dialogue with the council. “None of these [complaints] kill projects, but it does make them more costly, and more time-consuming. You might need an architect to help you with something like this as opposed to doing it in-house,” Hamman says.

Mandatory Sick Leave

Two federal proposals involving sick leave are on the docket for Congress. The Healthy Families Act, introduced in early 2007, would require seven days paid leave for employers with 15 or more employees. The 2007 Family Leave Insurance Act would provide eight weeks of paid leave to workers needing time off for the birth or adoption of a child; to care for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious illness; or for their own serious illness.

Susan Eckerly, vice president of federal public policy at the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), in Washington, D.C., says that both proposals have companion bills in the House. They were not voted on in the current Congress and will have to be reintroduced next year, which she believes is likely for the Healthy Families Act.

Mandatory sick leave laws have been approved in several cities, including San Francisco in 2007 and this past November in Milwaukee.

King says he was already trying to do the right thing with his company policies, and dislikes the administrative effort it takes to comply with the new law. But he’s trying to view it in a positive light. “In theory, it makes for a strong company culture,” he says.

In Milwaukee, although voters approved a sick leave bill in November, the city’s chamber of commerce has filed a lawsuit to have the law rescinded.

Several states are also active in this arena. A sick leave proposal was taken off the 2008 ballot in Ohio. “That was for a few reasons,” says Vince Squillace, executive vice president of the Ohio Home Builders Association. “One, it is being discussed federally, and two, the Ohio economy is in a near depression, so it’s not the time to fiddle with economic issues.”

A proposal in California was killed by the appropriations committee, but may be reintroduced next year. The NFIB says that the issue is also up for debate in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.