Illinois State Sens. Terry Link and Don Harmon co-sponsored a bill in the Illinois Senate that would require that only licensed electricians plan, install, repair and maintain wiring and equipment for electrical light, heat and power.
Currently, there is no law requiring that electricians be licensed in the state. As a result, plumbing and mechanical contractors would be prohibited to install or make repairs on anything that uses electrical power of any voltage, such as controls for furnaces, boilers or water heaters.
"We are concerned as this will affect work that has always been a part of our trade," said Beverly Potts, state executive manager of the Illinois Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors. "We're in favor of electricians being licensed, but bringing in a licensed electrician to replace an electric water heater or repair a hands-free fixture in a public restroom not only is an inconvenience for the consumer, it adds cost and time to a job as well."
Illinois Senate Bill 1880 was filed on Feb. 20, 2003, and Sen. Link filed an amendment on March 11. However, as of press time, the legislation was termed a "vehicle" or "shell" bill, in which all of the previous language has been removed (except for the first couple paragraphs naming the bill).
"The parties of interest -- electrical, plumbing and HVAC unions -- must resolve their differences about the bill before any action can go forward," said Georgiana Kipp, who heads up the Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors Association of Northern Illinois. "There are certain things currently done by plumbers or pipefitters that this bill would negate and is obviously of some concern."
"In Chicago, pipefitters do most of the HVAC service work," agreed Dan Bulley, senior vice president of the MCA of Chicago. "We believe (the legislation) is either not going to pass, or will pass with an exemption."
He said this is the first time that the plumbing and mechanical contracting groups have worked with their labor counterparts in the electrical industry.
Rick Terven, a lobbyist with the United Association, has met with MCAA and PHCC representatives about the bill, and recently presented a proposal to the electrical lobbing group EMSCO. The hope is that, once new language is to be drafted, there will be an exemption for the plumbing and mechanical trades.
"The electricians are not trying to get everyone else's work," he explained. "They just want to be licensed, and we're not against that."
He added there is still much to be worked out, and once all parties have approved the language of the bill, it will move forward in the Senate. However, if no agreement can be reached, the bill will be dead.