Lead-related bills clear Assembly committee, but a fight awaits

Published Jan 13, 2017

This article originally appeared on Politico

Lead-related bills clear Assembly committee, but a fight awaits 

By David Giambusso
01/12/2017 06:49 PM EDT


A sweeping package of lead remediation bills cleared the Assembly housing committee on Thursday, but the measures face a tough slog before they’re voted on by the full Legislature. 


Five bills designed to test for and remediate lead in paint, soil, and water sailed through committee despite opposition from business and real estate interests. Many of the measures have been in limbo since the summer. 


One bill (A3585) requires municipalities to inspect lead paint in one- and two-family dwellings and charge a fee to the building owners. Another ( A3611) requires lead paint inspections prior to a change in tenants or owners. 


Bills also cleared that deal with lead in soil and drinking water. One (A4305) requires soil testing prior to a home purchase. Another (4306) calls on the state Department of Environmental Protection to adopt a statewide plan to reduce lead exposure from soil and drinking water. A third (A4304 ) calls on the DEP to establish an easily navigable database with results of lead soil tests around the state. 


Supporters were pleased the bills cleared committee but are expecting a fight, even among Democrats, in the Legislature. Some of the measures that require state expenditures have to go through the appropriations committee before they even get a floor vote. 


“There was opposition to the legislation,” Doug O’Malley of Environment New Jersey, said after the hearing. “So we expect that this will require some muscle to get a full vote.” 


Among the opponents of some of the measures is the New Jersey Realtors. 


“Our concern as an organization is the cost burden placed on the individual homeowner and the property owner,” CEO Jarrod Grasso said.


The bill requiring inspections for each new tenant represents an especially excessive penalty for owners of seasonal homes, he said. 


“It would be almost impossible for the short term market to keep up with the provisions of the bill,” Grasso said in an interview. 


He and his group don’t argue with the need to remediate lead paint. Instead, Grasso said the state should take revenue from the realty transfer fee, which the state collects when properties are sold, and for a period of years, dedicate a chunk to lead paint remediation. 


That would mean using money for affordable housing or neighborhood revitalization and putting it toward lead paint remediation. Since lead is no longer allowed in paint, the state would only need to focus its energy for a few years on eliminating the problem in older housing stock, Grasso said. 


Realty transfer revenue coupled with a fee levied on all paint sold in New Jersey could represent $50 million a year to fix the lead problem.


“That’s $50 million a year that we could use to really tackle this head on and eradicate the lead issue in the state,” he said. “Let’s do it. But let’s not put it on the backs of individuals.” 


O’Malley argues that remediation is going to cost money one way or another, but that waiting to fix the problem will likely cost more, specifically for medical costs to children who suffer from lead poisoning. 


To reduce lead pollution in the state we need to remediate properties and that includes a price tag,” he said. “But the cost of doing nothing is more than $30,000 a year, per kid.” 


Each of the bills can be read on Thursday’s committee roster here:http://bit.ly/1OkmK8C