The General Assembly returned for an unusual post-election session on November 27. The primary purpose of this session was to craft legislation to implement the recently-enacted constitutional amendment regarding the photo-ID requirement for voting. In addition, they took care of several other issues left over from the summer’s short session. Legislators completed their business last Thursday and sent bills to the Governor for his consideration.
Last Friday Governor Cooper vetoed the Voter ID bill, and he may also veto other measures, so the General Assembly plans to reconvene between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to consider veto overrides. Once that action is taken, the 2017-2018 Session will officially adjourn sine die. The 2019 Session will begin with an organizational session on January 9. Once the new session begins, the GOP will continue to control both chambers but not by the super-majorities they currently possess.
Of the items members addressed last week, two were particularly important to the home building industry. First, legislators worked to clarify the interpretation of existing stormwater rules. Senate Bill 469 Technical Corrections is an omnibus vehicle used typically at the end of session to clarify or alter previously enacted legislation. This bill contained language which amends the requirements for new development within a vegetative buffer and stormwater discharge in redevelopment projects.
The bill will allow development within a vegetative buffer as long as the runoff from the entire impervious area of the project is collected, treated, and discharged through a portion of managed vegetative buffer in compliance with State and Federal requirements. This measure will help ease some restrictive regulations,while maintaining water quality. Secondly, the bill clarifies that property owners are not required to install new or increased controls for stormwater for preexisting development during redevelopment. However, landowners will be required to treat any additional stormwater created by new impervious surfaces that are in addition to the existing project.
The other issue that your legislative team was engaged with this week was the confirmation of Robinson “Robby” Hassell to the North Carolina Industrial Commission. For more than three decades, NCHBA has been a leader in reforming the workers compensation system and restoring needed balance to the Commission. As a result of most recent legislative reforms in 2011 as well as the adoption of a new medical fee schedule, workers compensation premiums for employers across the state have been reduced almost 50% on average. For example, if your premium was $10,000 in 2015, it will be$5,732 in 2019. If your premium was $25,000 in 2015, it will be $14,377 in 2019.
The Industrial Commission is made up of 6 commissioners, 3 of which represent employees and 3 of which represent employers. One of the important provisions in the 2011 reform legislation was to specify the qualifications for a full commissioner and subject those individuals to legislative confirmation. The confirmation process worked well with respect to nominees submitted by Governors Perdue and McCrory and with two earlier nominees advanced by Governor Cooper. However, two of Governor Cooper’s most recent nominees have proved to be more controversial.
During the short session, NCHBA and other members of the business community opposed the confirmation of Robert Harris to an “employer slot” on the Commission because his record did not support the statutory requirement for the slot. After Harris was rejected, Governor Cooper nominated Robinson “Robbie” Hassell. While Hassell was a former District and Superior Court judge, his record failed to support that he met the statutory requirements set forth in G.S. 97-77, necessary to fill the employer slot.Consequently, the House voted 59-34 yesterday not to confirm him as an Industrial Commissioner.
As we have in the past, NCHBA and the business community will recommend candidates to the Governor who meet the statutory requirements.