Nanny-State Alert: New Hampshire Contemplates Licensing Requirements for Gas Fitters

There’s another Nanny-bill up for hearings in Concord.  This is House Bill 1711 which, in keeping with the current fashion trend, is named after a little girl, Amilia’s Law.  The bill seeks to require licensing for tradesmen who work with natural gas or propane. The language of the bill is broad enough to include any tradesman whose work involves gas in any way: plumbers, appliance repair techs, construction crewmen, excavators, and carpenters to name but a few.

The gist is that the Luhrmanns were having some remodeling done. As part of the demolition and cleanup, a carpenter accidentally cut a propane line while doing some demolition (it’s not even clear he was aware the line was cut because the gas was off at the time and the noisy, dirty nature of doing demolition work). Family comes up (from Massachusetts), turns on the gas and the furnace and BOOM.  Everyone escaped except their little daughter. For more information read, “Parents call propane bill a lifesaver,” by Kathryn Marchocki, in the Thursday, Jan. 26, 2006 edition of the Union Leader [link].

The story is tragic but the solution is, yet again, moronic. Even if this bill were in force at the time of the accident, it would NOT have prevented this disaster! The carpenter doing the demolition would have had no reason to seek such training. And, as mentioned, it’s not even clear that he was aware that he had cut the gas tube.  

The sponsor of the bill, Bonnie Mitchell, was on Against the Grain with Gardner Goldmith on WNTK Talk Radio, 99.7 FM, 1490 AM. I called in while she was on to speak with her.

Mitchell confirmed that this bill, opportunistically named Amillia’s Law, would not have even prevented the Luhrmann tragedy. Yet this bill is named after the Luhrmann’s daughter who was killed in a house fire caused by the cut gas line. Mitchell also stated that some members of the Legislature have been trying to pass this law since 1990 and that it’s been regularly defeated. So what’s really going on here is that some politicians in Concord are exploiting the Luhrmann’s tragedy to use it as an emotional vehicle to attempt to pass, yet again, a hugely unpopular and stupid bill.

So what’s really behind the push for this bill? Well, let’s see: what do bureaucrats and politicians love above all else? That’s right: Money! And, as you’d expect, this bill is all about increasing revenue for the state bank account– more money for them to spend on other feel-good programs. HB 1711 includes testing “fees” (read: taxes) for both Master and Journeyman gas fitters as well as annual licensing “fees” (taxes). The exact amount of the license tax is to be determined by the State Fire Marshal who, not surprisingly, supports this tax increase.

Anytime government messes with the free market, it produces “unintended consequences.” The unintended consequence of this bill will be to restrict the number of servicers that customers may call for gas service. It will also result in longer delays in getting service for simple things like converting an appliance from natural gas to propane. And these services will become more expensive and a lot less convenient.

And here’s another point:  I carry one million dollars worth of liability insurance.  If we have a clear and present danger from bad propane connections lurking in every household, then why hasn’t my insurance company required me to have a gas fitter’s certification as a condition of my insurance policy?

Hearings on House Bill 1711 are on Feb 9. You can read the text of the bill here.

If you live in New Hampshire, contact your representative and ask him or her to dump this bill. HB 1711 is bad for business, bad for consumers, and bad for New Hampshire.


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