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The Great Fire Sprinkler Scandal Is Back

CORRUPTION IN THE CAPITAL? OR COMMON SENSE REBUKE OF BIG GOVERNMENT?  There’s a big report called “Fire Fight” in ProPublica this week covering the U.S. homebuilding industry’s “war on sprinklers.”  We’ve had several people forward us this report because it portrays South Carolina’s “rising star” (ahem) Nikki Haley in a very unflattering light. According…

CORRUPTION IN THE CAPITAL? OR COMMON SENSE REBUKE OF BIG GOVERNMENT? 

There’s a big report called “Fire Fight” in ProPublica this week covering the U.S. homebuilding industry’s “war on sprinklers.”  We’ve had several people forward us this report because it portrays South Carolina’s “rising star” (ahem) Nikki Haley in a very unflattering light.

According to the report, Haley and powerful lobbyists from the Home Builders Association of South Carolina conspired together to keep sprinkler systems out of newly-constructed homes in the Palmetto State – needlessly endangering citizens in their pursuit of the almighty dollar.

“With Haley’s help, the homebuilders gained sway over the South Carolina Building Codes Council, the prime decision-maker on rules governing the safety of homes and other buildings,” the report found.  “The council is supposed to be an independent body balanced among multiple stakeholders, but Haley helped pack it with industry-friendly members, records and emails show.”

In fact Haley appears to have let the powerful special interest’s top official – Mark Nix – make regulatory appointments for her.

“In vetting council appointments, Haley’s aides effectively gave veto power to Nix, the head of the builders’ lobby,” the report noted.  “In one exchange, a Haley aide checked names with Nix, who wrote back, ‘Hey buddy… All three guys are good with us.'”

Haley also fired a state fire marshal for attempting to change the codes to require sprinklers – allegedly at the behest of Nix.

“You. Are. Fucked,” Nix told the fire marshal after the codes were (temporarily) changed, according to the report.

Is all of this brazen?  Yes.  Is it surprising?  No.

Haley is a tool of the crony capitalists – and has been for some time.  As soon as she captured the GOP nomination in 2010 she dropped her Tea Party shtick and surrendered to the special interests subsidizing her political aspirations.

But … and this is a very important “but” … Haley and her status quo masters are actually correct on this issue.

That’s right.  The state has no business mandating the installation of sprinkler systems in new homes – thus imposing an estimated $5,000 per unit cost on consumers.

“We’re looking at another government-mandated cost that will suppress home ownership once (if) the economy ultimately turns around,” we wrote way back in 2010.

Our views haven’t changed … and sadly neither has the nation’s economic climate.

We’d love to see fire sprinklers installed in every residential home in America.  But that’s a marketplace decision, not a government one.

Haley’s tactics in advocating that position may be unseemly – and indicative of a broader betrayal to powerful interests – but she is not wrong on the issue.

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