Legislation which contains an NCHBA fix for a major onsite wastewater permit issue in Wake County took another step closer to becoming law this week. As previously reported in last week’s NCHBA Legislative Report, Wake County, which like other counties, has a locally-delegated onsite wastewater program authorized by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. These locally-delegated programs must meet the minimum requirements of state rules including a rule which requires a 25-foot setback for down-slope stormwater diversions. As a result of a recent Department audit, it was determined that Wake County had, for years, only been requiring a 15-foot setback. The county began enforcing the 25-foot rule prospectively but the dilemma was what to do about lots which had previously been approved and had homes in various stages of construction. Additionally, the county made the determination that it would not be able to “grandfather” any land or lots where applications or development plans had previously been filed, or approved, thereby leaving the legal status of these lots in limbo.
NCHBA drafted language which grandfathers lots and development plans as of August 1, 2019, and this language was added to SB 353 Amend Cartway Path/Septic Tank Lawswith the permission of Senators Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), Rick Gunn (R-Alamance) and Andy Wells (R-Catawba). This bill passed its final reading in the Senate on Monday night and was sent to the Governor. Neither the Governor nor his staff has indicated any reservations with the legislation and he is expected to the sign the bill soon. This legislative fix has the potential to save landowners millions of dollars in expensive retrofits and the county the prospects of expensive litigation.
The conference report for SB 553 (Regulatory Reform Act of 2019) passed a final vote on the House floor on Thursday. This is the latest in a series of annual regulatory reform bills which is a major legislative goal of the majority in each session. Typically, these bills contain NCHBA-inspired provisions. The conference report cleared the Senate on the first of two votes on Wednesday by a margin of 30-16. The Senate must take one additional vote before the bill is sent to the Governor. The House passed the measure 84-29 on Wednesday and 78-31 on Thursday. The bill contains several provisions of interest to NCHBA including:
- Direction to the NC Building Code Council to amend the North Carolina Plumbing Code to eliminate a drinking fountain requirement for a building with maximum occupancy fewer than 30.
- A study to examine whether all occupational licensing boards with continuing education requirements be required to offer these online.
- Direction to the NC Department of Environmental Quality to study and report on expanding existing express permitting programs, including stormwater and soil and erosion permits.
The legislative leadership unveiled legislation this week which would refund excess tax revenue collected this year back to taxpayers. On Tuesday, the Senate passed HB 74 (Taxpayer Refund Act), by a vote of 30-16 including support from a few Democrats. The legislation would send nearly $600 million of the $900 million-dollar surplus back to any 2018 state taxpayers.
Refunds would be capped at $250 for joint filers and $125 for single filers if they paid at least that much in state income taxes in 2018. If taxpayers paid less than those amounts, the refund would equal that amount paid; if they paid no tax, no refund would be provided.
In addition, several bills which provide raises to state employees, law enforcement personnel and teachers were introduced and voted on in both chambers. The legislative leadership has removed these popular pay raise provisions from the vetoed budget and run them as separate bills. The Governor has been highly critical of this move and it remains to be seen if he will veto these bills once they reach his desk. Negotiations over the vetoed budget appear to remain at an impasse over the issue of Medicaid expansion.
Neither chamber will hold voting sessions next week. However, they are expected to resume business the week after next. Having now passed our last major proactive initiative, your legislative team will nevertheless remain on duty for any relevant issue that may arise.