“Let Them Lick Stamps”

Why is MA refusing to make emails and numbers of licensed entities (individuals and corporations) available to the public?

There is a severe shortage of plumbers (among other professions with severe shortage as well) in MA!

In one of my buildings I have gas tankless hot water heaters that have been made to also heat the apartment even though they were not designed to do that and so I wanted to install a true combi tankless system in their place that is about the same size and that is designed to heat the hot water and the apartment. The baseboard heaters were already in place as well as most of the piping needed to convert. The Combi unit costs about $2000 but the quotes that I was getting were for $8500. That’s about $6000 in labor for one person for a day’s work. In other words, they are asking for about $800/hour. (Even with the available $1200 rebate that’s still about $600/hour).

I also want to install efficient global-warming combating ductless mini split heat pump heaters/air-conditioners. For a 3-4-bedroom apartment I am getting quotes for $20-25,000. The equipment cost $6,500 or less. So they are asking at least $13,500 for a couple of days of work in labor. That’s about $843.75/hour assuming 16 working hours!!! Even with the $10,000 whole house rebate that’s still about $440/hour. If 3 people work 16 hours nonstop that’s still $281.25 per person just for labor!

That’s Protectionism at its worst.

According to MassLandlords, the largest landlord association in MA, you need 9,160 hours to become a Master Plumber in MA. For comparison, to become a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering (that’s right, to become a rocket scientist) you need 3,612 hours.

Most repairs like replacing a sink, a faucet, a toilet, etc can be done by landlords and they should be legally allowed to do them provided they pass a quick test.

To become a residential plumber you don’t need more than 6 months to a year of training. You will need more (maybe 1.5 yrs) to work with gas. If you want to become an urban planning plumber and lay pipes under the street, by all means, study all you want, that’s fine. But for residential plumbing, it looks like the plumbers’ Unions, Boards and other special interests have artificially made it too hard to become a plumber in MA so that they can keep making $400-800/hour.

This artificial shortage also encourages bad behavior among plumbers – leaving you mid-way with an unfinished project, lying about costs of materials, not showing up on appointments, not replying to voice mails or not picking up the phone, low quality work, being rude and offensive, stealing your old copper, refusing to pull permits, demanding you give them your credit cards or cash down payments before they even show up, etc. All of this at one point or another has happened to me which means to other people too.

It’s not good for the consumer and it’s not good for combating Global Warming. We need the requirements to become a residential plumber relaxed in order to address this artificial shortage of plumbers.

I realize that even if you agree with me that educational demands on becoming a residential plumber need to be shortened, it’s not something that could happen overnight.

But what can happen overnight is that Mass.gov publishes and maintains an up-to-date spreadsheet of all the licensed plumbers in MA with their emails and numbers just like MassSave has done here with the HVAC techs licensed and authorized to do ductless mini split heat pumps in MA. They have created a wonderful spreadsheet with over 1200 professionals containing their emails and numbers.

We need a spreadsheet like that not only for all licensed plumbers in MA but also for every business trade that requires a license – all licensed roofers, all electricians, all licensed solar installers, lawyers in MA, home improvement contractors, dentists, construction supervisors, builders, hospitals, all banks and credit unions allowed to practice in MA, etc. The Division of Professional Licensure needs to publish a separate spreadsheet on each business trade on Mass.gov with their emails and phone numbers. Basically anybody who has a state license needs to agree as a pre-condition to getting licensed or having their license renewed that their address, email and phone number will be shared with the public. It’s 2023. The state already has or should have their emails, addresses, license and phone numbers and it should be organized in computer generated up-to-date spreadsheets and the public should have access to these spreadsheets. Printed yellow pages don’t exist anymore and searching Google for local listings is very limiting, it’s incomplete and is no longer sufficient in this economy and a market like this. We need to have access to ALL licensed professionals in MA so that the marketplace can work better and be more efficient and fair to the consumer. The public needs to have a way to email these people so we can figure out who is gouging the public and who isn’t. Currently prices vary by huge margins. Let them compete by price like grocery stores, landlords, etc. Isn’t this how the market should work?

On 2-11-23 I filed a Freedom of Information Act request where I requested a spreadsheet of all the licensed plumbers in MA with their emails and numbers.

Instead, their addresses were emailed to me but the emails and numbers were denied claiming that they are not public records.

I didn’t believe for a second that the State would issue someone a license without having their number and email in 2023 so I appealed with the Supervisor of Records.

The very purpose of someone becoming licensed in MA is so that they can practice their business trade and of course they would want the public to be able to reach them. That’s their business and that’s how they make their living. Having only an address might have been OK in the 19th or the early 20th century before emails and phones were invented but it’s not enough in the 21st century especially considering there are over 24,000 licensed plumbers in MA. So of course their emails and numbers should be available to the public so the public can reach plumbers in the town they are interested in and reach them in an efficient 21st century manner to compare their rates.

Emails and numbers of businesses and licensed entities and business individuals do not easily fit into the exemptions under the Public Records Law and so they should be public.

So I appealed and the Supervisor of Records agreed with me. I won the appeal but to my surprise the Division of Professional Licensure refused to follow the order of the Supervisor of Records.

The Division Of Professional Licensure first said they don’t have the emails and numbers, then they said they have them but they are all private, then they said they are not all private but they can’t tell which are private and which business, then they said they can maybe tell which ones are private and business but they won’t release them anyway even though the Appeal was decided in my favor and they were ordered to release all emails and numbers in their possession. They said we have the addresses and that should be enough for the public. So let’s keep cutting trees to make the paper, licking 24,000 stamps and trucking the letters using fossil fuel? In other words – “Let Them Lick Stamps”!

The Supervisor of Records has the power under the Public Records Law in MA to file a complaint with the Attorney General but they are refusing to enforce their order. No wonder their decisions get ignored.

Now I guess we need to go to Suffolk Superior Court. If you are a lawyer and want to take this case let me know. The MA Public Records Law has a provision I think where the Division will pay your attorney fees. But this time if we are forced to go to court, we, the People, would like 1) the spreadsheets of all (not just plumbers) licensed entities (individuals or corporations) emails and numbers to be listed online and 2) a question added to the license renewal process asking if they prefer to be contacted by the public over email, phone, both or none. We, the consumers of MA, have hired the State to issue licenses to protect us from unlicensed low quality or dangerous work and we need the contact information of these licensees which the Division of Professional Licensure is the primary source of. It’s in the public interest that we have the contact information of all licensed entities in MA licensed to serve the public.