The number of House members actively backing legislation to alter the lead-paint rule has grown by roughly half since the bill's introduction, but support hasn't been so fast to build in the Senate, and Democrats in both chambers have virtually shunned the bill, the latest support counts show.
In the House, 13 members have signed on as co-sponsors to H.R. 2093, joining the 25 who backed the bill when it was introduced May 22. Meanwhile, the Senate, just three members have added their names to the eight who signed on when S. 484 was introduced on March 6.
Of those 49 on Capitol Hill, only one is a Democrat: Dave Loebsack of Iowa. That lack of Democrat support matters because the party continues to control the Senate. As well, legislation with support from both sides often is viewed as having better odds of passage because it is viewed as nonpartisan.
Both H.R. 2093 and S. 484 take aim at the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (RRP). The 2010 rule requires that when any renovation work disturbs more than 6 square feet of the interior of a home built before 1978, and in all renovation involving window and door replacements, remodelers certified by the EPA must follow detailed rules to minimize the potential spread of dust containing lead paint. Failure to do so — or even keep records showing they've done so — can trigger several financial penalties.
Remodelers have consistently protested what they regard as the rule's overly rigorous and costly requirements, particularly given that they say no kits are available today that can accurately and reliably test for the presence of lead in homes being renovated.
S. 484 and H.R. 2093 both seek to restore a provision in the rule that enabled homeowners without children under 6 or pregnant women to opt out of the rule and let their contractor go ahead without following lead-safe practices. Those two groups are regarded as most at risk when there's lead in a home. The EPA had included this opt-out provision prior to issuing the final rule, but then removed it in July 2010. The agency estimates that by doing so, it roughly doubled the number of homes that were affected by RRP; critics of the rule say that the change burdened remodelers with an addition $336 million in compliance costs.
The two bills also would suspend RRP if the EPA cannot approve one or more commercially available test kits as meeting the agency's own reliability requirements. And the measure would nip in the bud the possibility that the EPA would be expanded to commercial and public buildings until the EPA conducts a study showing that RRP is needed in those structures. —Craig Webb is editor-in-chief of REMODELING. Find him on Twitter at @RemodelingMag.