New legislation to increase oversight of California’s building industry following the Berkeley balcony collapse has moved closer to enactment.
Six students, five of whom were on J1 visas from Ireland, fell to their deaths last year when the fourth-floor balcony they were standing on collapsed during a birthday party.
The firm that built the apartment complex had previously paid out $26.5 million in construction defect settlements.
Current state law does not require contractors to report such settlements to California’s licensing board.
The legislation, if passed, will require the board to assess whether contractors should be obliged to report any judgements or settlements related to shoddy workmanship.
Senate Bill 465 will be voted on by California's state assembly after passing committee stage yesterday.
The bill, which was introduced by Democratic senators Jerry Hill and Loni Hancock, received the unanimous backing of the committee’s Democrats, with Republican members abstaining.
Aoife Beary, one of seven Irish students who was seriously injured in the collapse, delivered a powerful address to the committee on Wednesday.
Speaking through tears, the young woman described how her birthday would forever mark the anniversary of the tragedy, which took place on the night of her 21st celebrations.
“I miss my friends so much. I have known them since we started school together at four years of age,” she said.
“We had grown up together. And now my birthday will always be their anniversary.”
Mr Hill told Newstalk Breakfast this morning that she and Jackie Donohoe, the mother of victim Ashley Donohoe, who also spoke to committee members, were both "instrumental" to the bill’s passage.
"I was in tears and most of the room was in tears. It was the most powerful, powerful testimony," he said of Ms Beary’s address.
"She described the pain she suffered, the agony and disability she has, the surgeries she encountered, but most importantly the loss of her friends and the lives that were destroyed because of this. Her life will never be the same."
Mr Hill described previous opposition by construction industry groups to an unsuccessful version of the bill as “sinister”.
"The special interests we have to deal with on an ongoing basis are very powerful," he told the programme.
"That’s why we have to work around them as best as possible. We have to try to understand what their issues are and address them to a point where we don’t compromise legislation."
If passed by the assembly, the bill will go on to California’s senate for approval. The deadline for both houses to pass bills is August 31th.