Some House Democrats said Friday that they hope Olympia Rep. Brendan Williams was just blowing off steam when he threatened to quit this week over the apparent killing of legislation to give new-home buyers a warranty against construction defects.
I cant imagine such an extreme reaction to a bill not coming up, House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, said of Williams reaction to statements by House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, that the consumer-protection measure needed more work this summer.
I hope this is a moment of frustration, Democratic Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia added. At this stage of the session, I dont give these things a lot of credibility.
Hunt is Williams seatmate in the 22nd Legislative District, which includes Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and most of north Thurston County.
Williams, a second-term legislator and lawyer by trade, played a key role in pushing for legislation to clamp down on shoddy construction. Tensions run high. Were at the point where everyone wants this bill or that bill passed, Hunt said of the mood of many lawmakers before Fridays bill cutoff.
Democratic Sen. Brian Weinstein of Mercer Island introduced legislation in the Senate similar to Williams bill, and the Senate proposal was altered after criticism from builders and insurers to include a study panel with industry representatives on it.
Williams told The Olympian late Thursday that he wanted to talk to Chopp about the speakers statement to reporters that the homeowner-rights bill should be held for further study.
Williams was clear that he meant to put his job on the line.
There is no point in continuing in this (job) if right-wing thugs like the Building Industry Association are allowed to run roughshod over the process, Williams told the paper, referring to Chopps statement that he wanted to work with parties such as the building industry to craft a bill this summer.
Williams attended committee hearings Friday but did not show up for House floor votes. He reiterated his stand for passing a tough bill in an e-mail to The Olympian, saying: There should be consequences to failing your district. I would have failed in over a couple thousand different ways the number of housing starts under way in our district if I did not bring some hope to those dreaming of home ownership that their dreams will not turn into nightmares.
There are 32 states that provide more expansive protections to homebuyers. Without accountability for quality, much of what is being built now is going to start crumbling in a few years, he added.
ESSB 5550 would create a home-warranty right effective in July 2008 for purchasers of new homes, and in the meantime it would set up a study group, including insurance and construction industry members, to look at the causes of construction defects. The home warranty would run for two years against general defects and longer periods for plumbing, electrical, water leaks and structural work.
Kessler said Chopp didnt cave in to the BIAW.
Weve tried to be a more balanced, reasonable caucus, Kessler said, citing House Democrats efforts to talk frequently with business groups. We started that nine years ago when we came in as a leadership team. Thats how we were able to get into the majority, by not being so rigid.