It took some finagling, but state Rep. Paul Lee’s bill that would reduce the number of bathrooms required in high school stadiums has reached the Senate.
House Bill 159, which would amend the building standards schools abide by, survived a couple of challenges from Rep. Craig Lipscomb, a Republican architect from Rainbow City. Lee’s bill, which is co-sponsored by other Wiregrass Reps. Jeff Sorrells (R-Hartford) and Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), passed the House with an 87-1 vote Thursday – but not without some maneuvering past Lipscomb’s challenges.
Lee said the bill had overwhelming support from many legislators – including some from unexpected sources.
“We had a lot of people I didn’t expect coming to the well to tell stories of how these requirements just stopped projects in their districts or caused schools to spend an exorbitant amount of money,” he said. “These were stories they had not told me.”
Currently the regulations require stadiums to have one bathroom stall for men for every 75 seats in the first 1,500 and one per 120 seats afterward. For women, the numbers mandated are one stall for every 40 seats in the first 1,520 and one for every 60 seats afterward.
In a 5,000-seat stadium, the current code requires 49 men’s toilets and 96 women’s toilets.
Lee’s proposal – which he amended Thursday to include a few more women’s toilets – would significantly reduce the totals.
For men, stadiums would need one toilet per 200 seats for the first 1,500, one per 250 for the next 1,500 seats and one for each 500 seats in the remaining capacity. In a 5,000-seat facility, 18 men’s toilets would be required.
For women, one toilet would be need for every 100 seats in the first 1,520 seats, one per 125 in the next 1,520 seats and one per every 175 in the remaining occupancy. In a 5,000-seat stadium, 39 women’s stalls would be needed.
Lee’s original legislation required about 33 women’s toilets in a 5,000-seat facility. He said he proposed the amendment to increase the numbers slightly, which passed 93-1, at the request of a few officials.
Lipscomb followed Lee’s amendment with another amendment that further increased the number of bathrooms – including a significant uptick in women’s facilities. Lee motioned to table the amendment, which passed 58-9.
Lipscomb then moved to indefinitely table the proposal altogether, which died after a 65-5 vote. Lee’s bill then passed the House and moved to the Senate for consideration.
The bill came at the urging of Houston County Schools officials, who say they have doled out significant funds for bathroom additions not necessarily needed in the last few years. In an earlier Dothan Eagle article, officials noted Rehobeth High School’s football stadium includes a facility that has yet to be used just to comply with the law.
Lee agreed with the assessments, and Clouse co-sponsored the bill because Carroll High School in Ozark also encountered issues with the code when remodeling a concessions stand a few years ago.
“There are a lot of areas where they have not updated the facilities since the ‘60s or ‘70s because they couldn’t afford to meet (updated codes),” Lee said. “That’s worse now.”