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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Tuesday July 16th 2024

State Commissioner Recklessly Alters Locally Initiated Window Safety Legislation

by Jim Graham

Three years ago Minneapolis”' own Linda Berglin and Karen Clark, with a little help from yours truly, got legislation passed to require window fall protection, such as security screens, on all new window construction for multi-unit buildings. It was limited to multi-unit buildings as a compromise, and as a beginning, but also because a huge proportion of child falls came from apartment buildings. It was anticipated even that limited law might prevent up to 80% of child falls. And that it would eventually result in even concerned parents with single family homes installing such screens. Much like the CO regulations has successfully done.

The attention and work on that legislation came about because of the sudden awareness of the problem due to Laela Shagobay falling from a window four floors up in a newly constructed building that met ALL construction codes and regulations at the time. That building and some others put on “Safety” screens as soon as they could be designed to retro-fit the windows, and before “Laela”'s Law” went into effect.

The resulting Laela”'s Law made Minneapolis and Minnesota the leader in such legislation in the nation. Speculation was that it would lead to changes in the International Building Code, and impact child safety for the whole country.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota Commissioner of Labor and Industry took it upon himself to completely gut the law and change the regulation and code to meet his own desire to subvert the entire law. Instead of requiring such fall protection on windows lower than 42 inches, he changed it to 24 inches (all on his own and against the recommendation of the board that he had put together to weaken the law as much as possible); which destroyed the intent of the law.

So now we have an epidemic of children falling from windows. Surprise, Surprise! As I testified before the Senate, “It does not take miracles to keep children from injury and death. All it takes is responsible legislators creating responsible legislation.” Of course it also takes responsible public employees such as Commissioners to carry out the intent of a law to protect children. Perhaps after November the new “Commissioner” will in fact enforce the actual law as it was originally intended.

Sustainable buildings that serve and protect ALL our people should be an industry in which Minneapolis leads the State of Minnesota and nation as a whole. It is the future. We can look at the overwhelming need for quality housing as a looming disaster on the horizon, or as an incredible opportunity for economic development of our City. Minneapolis needs to lead the State and Nation in all aspects of “Sustainable” development.

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