A few weeks ago the local headlines told of a summertime tragedy: elderly residents of a nursing home had died from heat-related problems. The blame was put on a lack of properly operating air conditioning equipment.

It didn’t take long for local Michigan politicians to swing into action. Sen. George Hart (D-Dearborn, MI) has introduced a bill that would require all nursing homes in Michigan to have air conditioning in resident rooms and common areas by June 1, 2002.

Currently, most nursing homes in Michigan are not required to have air conditioning.

I can see why politicians jump into action when tragedy strikes close to home. It is noble and the right thing to do when lives are at stake and legislation is required to prevent further pain and suffering. I commend Sen. Hart for taking this action. I only hope his constituents and others in the legislature see the same urgency.

I say this not only because of the potential life- and injury-saving ramifications but also because of the position this puts many Michigan a/c contractors in. Had the a/c equipment been operating properly at the Northland Nursing Home in Detroit, three residents might still be alive and five others saved from injury. (See “Lack of Funds May Be at Root of Nursing Home Deaths,” page 1.)


Suffice it to say that once again, our trade is in the position to thrust itself into the forefront of the “quality of life” issues. Once again, we can be the people in white hats, quick to see the need for saving lives and reducing suffering. Sen. Hart’s bill could go a long way to making consumers realize that our trade performs a vital service to the community, and that we shouldn’t be painted with a wide brush stroke, which includes unscrupulous contractors.

The bill also opens up new revenue streams for residential and commercial contractors that may not have existed before. Suddenly there is a need to design and build a/c systems where none ever existed or to retrofit antiquated systems that do more harm than good. At the very least, the opportunities for maintenance contracts jump geometrically for contractors who are just learning the value of such lifelong agreements.

But successful passage of the bill is not guaranteed — far from it. According to the Detroit Free Press, the bill will probably land in the Senate’s Senior Citizens and Veterans Affairs Committee. The chairman, Sen. Mat Dunaskiss (R-Lake Orion, MI) said he doesn’t consider air conditioning a major policy issue and the matter is “best left to the marketplace.” Although Dunaskiss added that he would give the bill “due respect” when it arrives.

You may not agree with getting the government involved with legislating air conditioning, but feel free to give your opinion to Senators’ Hart or Dunaskiss.

Hart’s number is 517-373-6820 and Dunaskiss’ number is 517-373-2417.

I’d like to hear from you if similar legislation exists or is being considered for your state. I’d also be interested to see how you feel about letting the market determine the need for a/c or if we should allow government to intervene.

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); halljr@bnp.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 07/23/2001