Senate President Morgan Carroll does love herself some trial lawyers. What better way to express that love than tossing the rest of Colorado under the bus for them when it comes to construction defects legislation? That’s exactly what happened yesterday, as much to Carroll’s horror, the unspeakable happened: a Republican bill actually survived the kill committee by gaining a Democratic vote.
While in other large cities condos make up 20% of new housing stock, in Denver, it is a paltry 2%; a 90% decrease from national averages. The bipartisan bill that survived the infamous kill committee was aimed at fixing just that problem. As Ed Sealover at The Denver Business Journal reports:
The proposed solution had two parts. SB 220 would have required condo-unit owners to submit to alternative-dispute resolution such as arbitration or mediation if the unit developer required it. And it would have required that a majority of members of a homeowners association agree to file a lawsuit, a standard significantly larger than the two-person bar that now must be met.
Arbitration, huh? You mean that process where we exclude lawyers and their large fees from settling our problems? Gee, that probably means trial lawyers are opposed to it. Now, Carroll quickly dove behind the “we’re just trying to help the people” motif, but a similar situation that occurred in Las Vegas shows how lame this excuse really is (via The Las Vegas Sun):
Representatives from the industry claimed that even absent fraud, the construction defect rules were a bonanza for trial attorneys and the experts they hired.
Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, for example, said his plumbing business had been the subject of 15 to 20 construction defect notices since 2002. Not once was he able to make a repair to rectify the alleged problems, but the insurance companies for the developers settled each case. That has caused his insurance premiums to rise, he said, hurting his business.
He said a handful of law firms in Nevada have boasted that they have grossed over a billion dollars in construction defect claims.
“It’s a bunch of highway robbery,” he said. “The law itself is clearly flawed.” [the Peak emphasis]
The condo defect law is quite similar here in Colorado. This has resulted in only six condos being built of the 2,200 homes added in Lakewood last year, and zero of the 709 built in downtown Denver, with contractors trying to avoid the headache that comes with them.
Despite this, when a bill correcting the problem emerged from the kill committee, instead of passing it along to the next committee to hear it, Carroll pocketed the bill. Killing it by letting the time run out on it. This was her only option as the bill would have passed with bipartisan support had it come to the floor.
There are now fewer affordable housing options around the Denver metro area because Morgan Carroll chose her trial lawyers over what was best for Colorado.