Zorn disappointed in governor’s veto of high school press box bill

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn expressed his disappointment that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday vetoed his legislation to clearly state that football stadium press boxes, concession stands and ticket booths do not need to be heated as “occupied” spaces.

“This bill was a commonsense reform designed to ensure that no other school in Michigan has to deal with the bureaucratic nightmare Madison School District did last year,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “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 noted that while the Madison schools were able to move on with an important improvement project for its student athletes, Hudson Area Schools are going through the same situation.

“I am deeply disappointed that Governor Whitmer vetoed Senate Bill 294,” said Dr. Michael J. Osborne, superintendent of the Hudson Area Schools. “My small community and school district are now in a position where we have to consider increasing our costs by more than 25%. This is devastating to a small community attempting to replace a press box that is over 50 years old. We have numerous safety issues with our current press box, and it is imperative that we address these issues. Just considering a modest press box is a major financial burden for a district our size.

“Our community has generously donated about half of the funds that were originally estimated for the cost. Now with the new interpretation of the regulations and the veto by Governor Whitmer, our plan for a safe and functional press box is even further away. To have this bill move through the House and Senate only to be vetoed by the governor is very disheartening.”

Last summer, Madison School District in Adrian was putting in bleachers in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and building a new press box facility near the football field and track. However, state building inspectors had initially interpreted the mechanical code to say that the press box would be an “occupied space” and would need permanent heating facilities capable of maintaining a minimum room temperature of 68 degrees.

In July, the district won its appeal to the Michigan Construction Code Commission, allowing it to proceed with the project without the additional costs.

In response to the initial ruling, Zorn sponsored Senate Bill 294, which would have amended Michigan’s construction code to clarify that interior spaces, such as press boxes under 500 square feet, that are built as viewing areas for outdoor sporting activities are exempt from the permanent heating requirements. The bill would have also exempted ticket booths and concession stands from the heating requirement.

In her veto letter, the governor said, “legislation that makes construction in this state less safe for everyone is not an appropriate response to a single license denial,” and that “bills like SB 294 … encourage disappointed applicants to ‘appeal’ to the Legislature.”

“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. I am disappointed in her response,” Zorn said. “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.

“The governor’s last reason for her veto is baffling. Most of what we do in the Legislature is listen to the people about ways to improve state laws and make their government work better for everyone. In this case the governor is doing the opposite by forcing school districts to spend more of their valuable time and limited resources on these projects. It is inappropriate to use funds meant for educating our students.”