The Safe Building Codes Act, which has been introduced in various of forms in the past several Congresses, has become particularly relevant because of the hazard events of 2017. The goal of the legislation is to amend the Stafford Act to enhance existing mitigation programs by encouraging states to voluntarily adopt and enforce nationally-recognized model building codes for residential and commercial structures in order to qualify for an additional four percent of funding available for post-disaster grants. Efforts are under way to incorporate the bill into the pending disaster-relief spending bill this year in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the devastating California wildfires.
This is the signature legislation pushed by the BuildStrong Coalition, of which ASCE is a member. The group also represents firefighters, emergency responders, insurers, architects, contractors and manufacturers, as well as consumer organizations, code specialists, and many others committed to building a more resilient America. ASCE has joined with other members of the Coalition in numerous letters, briefing sessions, and Hill visits advocating for the measure.
Those efforts have continued in the current Congress and on November 28th House Transportation & Infrastructure Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Ranking Member Hank Johnson (D-GA) introduced H.R. 4460, the Disaster Recovery Reform Act. The bill was quickly approved by the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The legislation incorporates many of the provisions on the Smart Building Codes Act. As drafted HR. 4460 contains the following provisions:
- Federal Cost Share Reform Incentives: Incentivizes states to invest in resiliency by allowing the federal cost share to be increased based on nationally-acknowledged resiliency standards put in place pre-disaster.
- Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund: Leverages the life- and cost-saving power of prevention to provide states with access to on-budget pre-disaster mitigation funding for activities that provide a measurable reduction of risk. This would be accomplished by shifting 6% of annual funding from the Post-Disaster Relief Fund to the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program.
- Post-Disaster Building Code Funding: Helps states and communities build to stronger standards post-disaster by ensuring that building code implementation and enforcement funding is available to affected areas post-disaster.