Monday, July 07, 2003
California politics, housing costs and Gray Davis: The Sacramento Bee's Dan Walters had an interesting column in today's paper regarding household plumbing.
To make a long story shorter, some municipalities and counties in California allow plastic pipes for home construction. Because it takes less skill (and union members) to install plastic piping versus copper piping, unions have long opposed the cheaper product. Now a bill is moving through the state legislature that would allow the state's Buidling Standards Commission to effectively overrule the county and local goverments who have OK'd the use of plastic pipes.
The war has been fought in the Legislature, in the courts and, in recent years, in the Building Standards Commission, which came under Democratic, and therefore union, influence after Democrat Gray Davis won the governorship in 1998. Plumbers unions have contributed at least $2 million to Davis' campaign treasury since 1998, a sum that ranks them among his largest contributors.
Upwards of 200 cities and counties allow plastic pipe -- specifically a product called PEX -- in construction, and the Plastic Pipe and Fitting Association petitioned to make it legal on a statewide basis last year, but the Building Standards Commission, appointed by Davis, rejected the move, and shortly thereafter the plumbing unions dumped an additional $280,000 into Davis' re-election campaign. The administration, of course, denies any connection between the two events.
Last December, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the exclusion of PEX from the state's model plumbing code was illegal, thus opening the door to plastic pipe makers and construction companies to seek its approval.
Well, at least Gov. Davis stays bought. Plastic piping saves about $500 a home in construction costs -- not much in the high-priced California market, but every little bit helps.