BATON ROUGE, LA. — Banding with several hundred other Louisiana plumbing contractors from the Mechanical Contractors Association of America and United Association members wearing bright green shirts that said, "Vote No to HB 601," the Louisiana Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors stormed the state capitol in mid-May to defeat legislation that would have reduced licensing standards to meet demand for post-hurricane workers.

The PHCC, UA and MCAA worked together to fight House Bill 601, which would have changed Louisiana's plumbing code to lessen requirements to obtain a master plumber's license. The bill, supported by general contractors and home builders, would have shifted oversight duties from the Louisiana Plumbing Board to the state Licensing Board for Contractors. It also would have adopted the International Plumbing Code as the State Sanitary and State Plumbing Code. It failed on a 14-4 vote.

"This bill would have lessened the skill level of the master plumber and journeyman and would have been a giant step back to the way Louisiana was in the early '20s, when there were bad sanitary conditions and diseases," said PHCC - National Association President-elect Jim Finley, who is chairman of the Louisiana Plumbing Board. "The general contractors said the bill would 'provide more boots on the ground with plumbers in them,' but professional plumbers don't want just anyone filling those boots."

Regarding the bill's proposal to transfer plumbing oversight from the state Plumbing Board, Finley said: "This was like a hostile takeover of a company. The state Licensing Board for Contractors is governed by general contractors, not plumbers — there are no plumbers represented at all on that board."

HB 601 was proposed earlier this year by Rep. Diane Winston. Since then, the coalition of p-h-c contractors has been writing letters and e-mails opposing the bill. The grassroots efforts culminated May 16 at the three-hour House of Representatives' Commerce Committee hearing.

"We sent so many e-mails over the past month that during the hearing one legislator asked us not to send anymore," Finley said. "It was a great joint effort by PHCC, MCAA and the UA."