Editorial: Get back in line

May 16, 2014 

Money talks in the halls of the General Assembly. That’s no secret.

What may be more of a secret is a bill that was under consideration last year that is likely to make a second try at passage this year. It’s a bill the moneyed interests of the homebuilders wants passed. Local governments, which don’t plow money into political campaigns want it defeated.

The bill, called HB 150, would prevent towns and other local governments from issuing design standards on houses built in their jurisdictions. So, if a builder decides he wants to build a pink house in a neighborhood full of more traditionally colored homes, he would be able to do it, no questions asked.

That may be an outlandish example, but here’s one that’s not. Suppose the builder wants to install a garage across most of the front of the house, leaving just a little slot for a front door? Ugly as that might be, it would be allowed. Such designs don’t promote friendly neighborhoods, even if they are less expensive to build and provide homebuilders with a high margin.

The battle in the General Assembly might not be a close one except for the fact that the homebuilders can exert considerable influence with members of the General Assembly by opening their checkbooks.

Absent that, we suspect legislators would be considerably less likely to consider rules that would strip authority from their local government brethren in favor of passing a law that benefits a select few.

Local governments find their hands tied in this lobbying battle. They can’t throw money at leglislators. They are limited to arguing the facts of the matter.

When is the last time we heard of the General Assembly passing a law on its merits?

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