INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb is expecting the state's building safety commission next month will approve a template ordinance for local communities to adopt if they want to require home carbon monoxide detectors.
In an exclusive interview with The Times, the Republican said he is aware that several Northwest Indiana communities have been unable to finalize carbon monoxide detector requirements due to the Indiana Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission refusing to sign off on their ordinances.
Holcomb explained the refusals are not borne out of an animus toward carbon monoxide detectors, but rather a desire to avoid different standards and policies in communities across the state.
"We're trying to get away from this hodge-podge approach and have a more formalized template," Holcomb said.
The governor did not specify whether the template only would cover new residential construction, similar to ordinances approved by the councils in Chesterton, LaPorte, Michigan City and Porter County, or also apply to existing rental properties as St. Joseph County wants.
"The board should be working with, and is working with, local communities," Holcomb said. "There will be more work to share coming next year, which is right around the corner."
At its Dec. 5 meeting, the safety commission explicitly declined to tell Michigan City Fire Marshal Kyle Kazmierczak exactly what ordinance language would pass muster, even as commission leaders repeatedly claimed they were working on a template.
"What they're doing, in my opinion, is trying to draw it out as long as possible so we just go away," Kazmierczak said at the time.
Holcomb demurred when asked if he'd rather have the Indiana General Assembly send him legislation setting statewide carbon monoxide detector requirements during the lawmakers' 10-week annual session that begins Jan. 3.
The governor said he first wants to see what the safety commission comes up with for local ordinances before considering whether a statutory requirement is needed.
"I'll review what their final product is and withhold judgment until I see that," Holcomb said. "We want this to be easy for counties to not just go to the board, but to get approval."
At the same time, Holcomb was coy about whether he'd approve a state law preempting local governments from enacting carbon monoxide detector requirements: "I'll withhold my judgment until I see what their (the safety commission's) product is."
The General Assembly in recent years regularly has barred local government action independent of state law on a variety of issues, including setting a higher minimum wage, enacting strict gun regulations and banning plastic bags or Styrofoam food packaging.
Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House and Senate also largely declined action on the dangers of carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas produced by malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances that kills approximately 170 Americans each year and sends thousands more to emergency rooms.
For example, the General Assembly in 2014 scuttled a Senate Bill 329 provision, crafted by state Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, to merely have home inspectors advise homeowners of the benefits of a carbon monoxide detector if one was not already installed in the house.
Indiana is among just 12 states that do not require home carbon monoxide detectors either through state law, as Illinois does, or their state building codes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.