Editorial: Whitmer punts on school district savings
Earlier this month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a bill that would have allowed school districts in Michigan to build press boxes and seasonal sport-viewing outbuildings without permanent heating systems.
Madison School District in Adrian, for example, faced shelling out $250,000 in its pursuit of a new football stadium press box, but it was able to get a waiver from a state regulatory agency. The bill would have given K-12 districts a pass from meeting this unnecessary, costly requirement.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, would have adjusted Michigan’s construction code to clarify that interior spaces designated for outdoor sports viewing would be exempt from permanent heating requirements.
On its passage through the Senate and the House, the bill was narrowly tailored to apply only to buildings used by K-12 schools as viewing areas for outdoor sporting events enclosing less than 500 square feet.
“By vetoing this bill, the governor is saying that she doesn’t care if schools have to waste valuable time and taxpayer dollars on unnecessary building requirements or a burdensome appeals process,” Zorn said in a statement.
In her veto letter, the governor defended her action saying the bill would make construction in Michigan less safe for everyone.
Heated press boxes may be nice, but they aren’t necessary. Temperatures in spring and summer aren’t going to be a problem for press box viewers. And for football, as for many other fall sports, attending games in cold weather wrapped up in coats, gloves and hats is not just normal, but a time-honored tradition.
In fact, it might be more dangerous to put up barriers to school districts’ abilities to rebuild ramshackle viewing sheds, especially since many districts say they are short on funds. For some districts, the decision is not between updating press boxes with heating systems or without them, but whether they can afford to update them at all.
“There is nothing in my bill that would have made high school press boxes less safe or built with shoddy construction, as stated by the governor, since the school districts use union labor,” Zorn stated. “In fact, by vetoing the bill the governor will force some schools to continue to use old, outdated facilities as they raise the additional funds for unnecessary heating units.”
Those who are really concerned about the temperature of their 500-square-foot press box ought to consider a cheaper option: Buy a space heater. They typically go for under $100 at Home Depot.
Whitmer said bills like these would encourage those whose building license applications are rejected to appeal to the Legislature to strip regulatory authority from state departments.
Yet regulations ought to be changed when they lack common sense. Whitmer’s veto spiked what would have been an easy win for school districts trying to save resources for the classroom.