Sen. Moulton blames fire chiefs for lack of commercial building code

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — State Senator Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls), the senator representing the 23rd senate district, stopped by the Colfax Messenger office April 8 to talk about the bills he wrote for the senate that have been signed into law.

One of those laws is the Uniform Commercial Building Code.

Prior to a uniform commercial code, there was a uniform residential building code and a uniform manufactured housing code but not a code in the commercial area, Senator Moulton said, noting that builders and architects were always concerned about dealing with local ordinances.

Senator Moulton blamed the problem with establishing a uniform commercial building code on fire chiefs throughout the state.

“The problem in trying to get a compromise or a bill has always been the (Wisconsin State) Fire Chiefs’ Association. The fire chiefs have been parochial about what is safe in their community over what is safe in another community. So we were able to work a compromise with the fire chiefs,” Senator Moulton said.

“We grandfathered in all the fire suppression ordinances that will be … available online to any builder or architect so there are no surprises as to what the ordinances are,” he said.

Those who are concerned with the fire code are represented on the building code council, Senator Moulton said.

The commercial building code will be a mirror of the international building code, he said.

When municipalities are seeking state approval of building plans for commercial buildings, “it should speed the process up. They will know what ordinances they will have to meet ahead of time. There will be no surprises. (The municipality) will not be able to pass an ordinance,” Senator Moulton said.

When it was noted that municipalities currently are not able to adopt building or zoning ordinances that would apply to a project that was already approved and under construction, Senator Moulton said he was not sure if that were true.

The uniform commercial building code will go into effect 30 days after the governor signs it into law, and it passed unanimously in both the Assembly and the Senate, Senator Moulton said.

Healthy jobs

The Healthy Jobs Act started out as a tax credit for wellness and prevention programs but progressed into a grant program with the amount capped at $3 million per year.

“Large businesses have pretty much determined the usefulness of a wellness prevention program. It saves money on health care costs and increases employee productivity and reduces absenteeism. Large businesses have already incorporated these. Small businesses sometimes don’t have the (money) to start them up. This program provides a grant to small businesses with 50 or less employees to implement a wellness and prevention program,” Senator Moulton said.

Administrative rules are in the process of being written for the program, he said.

Small businesses would apply to the state Department of Health Services, and information will be available soon on the department’s website, Senator Moulton said.

Extended Foster Care

The Extended Foster Care law allows young people to remain in the foster care program until 21 if they so choose if they are attending school and have an Individual Education Plan in effect.

Some of the teenagers have disabilities, and if they age out at 18 “they flounder around in society and don’t get their high school degree or they don’t get training. This allows them to stay in the program … until age 21 (if they are in school). I think it will help them to get jobs and become productive members of society,” Senator Moulton said.

The law applies to high school and vocational technical school students and applies until they receive a degree or reach the age of 21, he said.

Agriculture tourism

The last of the bills that Senator Moulton wrote this year is related to agriculture and tourism.

Agricultural tourism refers to farmers who do a variety of tourism events, such as corn mazes or pumpkin patches or hay rides in the fall.

Urban people want to see how farms work, Senator Moulton noted.

The law “exempts the farmer from certain liability. If the farmer has something going on, maybe a dairy breakfast, and somebody gets kicked by a cow when they are doing something they shouldn’t be doing, it protects (the farmer) from that situation. It makes it easier for the farmer to get liability insurance,” he said.