The California State Senate has passed new legislation raising oversight of building contractors in the US in light of the Berkeley balcony collapse which killed six students last year.
The passing of the laws by a vote of 37 to 0 means it will now go to the governor for consideration. He has until September 30 to act on bringing them into law.
“SB 465 [the legislation] is in response to last year’s tragic balcony collapse in Berkeley that killed six students and severely injured seven others,” Jerry Hill, who helped to formulate the legislation, told his fellow senators ahead of the vote. “It ensures that the state agencies tasked with overseeing the construction industry are taking appropriate steps to identify bad actors and improve building standards.”
He said it required contractors convicted of felonies or crimes related to their work to report that information to the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), which regulates the industry. At present state law in California does not require contractors to report defect settlement cases to CSLB.
“Further, SB 465 requires the Building Standards Commission to look at improving their safety requirements for balconies and other outdoor structures,” Mr Hill said.
The balcony collapse in June 2015 claimed the lives of Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Ashley Donohue, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, and Eimear Walsh.
Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Seán Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray, and Hannah Waters have all spent the past year recovering from injuries of varying severity.
The students were celebrating Aoife’s 21st birthday at an apartment in Berkeley’s Library Gardens complex when the outdoor balcony collapsed, dropping them from the fourth floor to the pavement below.
Twelve of the 13 of those injured or killed in the accident were Irish students visiting the US on J1 working visas.
After the collapse it was soon discovered that the firm that built the complex had a history settling construction defect cases with payouts totalling $26.5m (€23.7m). That had been unknown to the CSLB.
At an Appropriations Committee on the new legislation last month, Aoife Beary
told senators she had endured a traumatic brain injury, open heart surgery, broken arms, hands, and pelvis and jaw, along with losing a number of teeth.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved