NCHBA Septic Tank Fix Passes Senate On Initial Vote As Session Continues

A bill which contains an NCHBA amendment to address a major issue concerning onsite wastewater permits in Wake County took another step closer to becoming law last Wednesday. As previously reported in the NCHBA Legislative Report, a recent audit by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services found that Wake County’s locally-delegated program did not meet state minimums for setbacks for down-slope stormwater diversions. Believing they lacked the authority, the county elected not to “grandfather” existing permits previously issued and in various stages of construction.

Your legislative team worked quickly with impacted landowners and other parties to craft a legislative solution. This language will grandfather landowner applications and development plans submitted prior to August 1, 2019 with the following language, “a minimum horizontal distance between every sanitary sewage treatment and disposal system and downslope interceptor drains, foundation drains, and stormwater diversions shall be 15 feet” and language to clarify that the state rule shall only apply to stormwater diversions with cuts of 2 feet or more in vertical height. This will relieve landowners of the cost of retrofits and expensive alterations which would have been required in the absence of this legislation and end the potential for confusion and litigation.

Last Wednesday, this language which was added in the House to SB 353 Amend Cartway Path/Septic Tank Laws, sponsored by Senators Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), Rick Gunn (R-Alamance) and Andy Wells (R-Catawba), passed the Senate 34-0 on the first of two concurrence votes. The second vote is expected to come early this week. Your legislative team does not anticipate any opposition on third reading and thereafter expects the bill to be signed into law by the Governor.

The budget stalemate between the Governor and GOP legislative leaders continued last week with Medicaid expansion as the main sticking point. Governor Cooper supports the expansion of Medicaid, while GOP legislative leaders have concerns over the long-term fiscal sustainability of an expanded program.

Frustrated by the lack of budget negotiations with the Governor, GOP legislative leaders filed a bill, HB 74 (Taxpayer Refund Act), which would refund nearly $600 million of the $900 million-dollar surplus back to 2018 state individual income 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 (if they paid less, the refund would equal that amount; if they paid no tax, no refund would be provided).

During a Thursday morning Senate Finance committee meeting, the tax rebate measure passed the committee along party lines and the bill was subsequently sent to the Senate Rules Committee for consideration. If the bill makes it to the Governor’s desk, it would face an almost certain veto.

Also, lacking the votes to override the Governor’s veto on the legislatively-passed budget, GOP leaders yesterday announced plans to introduce legislation for several items contained in the vetoed budget (e.g., teacher and state employee raises, salary increases for prison guards, etc.). This “piecemeal” approach was immediately criticized by the Governor. However, should those bills pass, the Governor will then have to decide whether or not to use his veto power to block what are perceived as appropriations popular with the public.

Both the House and Senate have released calendars for Monday. Some other legislation which would not have been considered this year had the session adjourned as expected is beginning to emerge. Your legislative team will be watching to ensure that nothing bad for our industry is included among them.