Continuing Education For General Contractors Legislation Heard In Committee
One of NCHBA’s top legislative priorities took a step forward this week when SB 55 (Continuing Education for General Contractors) (Primary Sponsors Senators Rick Gunn, R-Alamance; Paul Newton R-Cabarrus & Don Davis, D-Greene) was heard in the Senate Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday. The bill was before the committee for “discussion only” as a proposed committee substitute (PCS) made changes to the bill earlier introduced. Under Senate protocol, PCS’s cannot be voted on until the next committee meeting. The major change in the legislation would allow a licensed general contractor to obtain all 8 hours of the required education through an approved online provider beginning in 2021. This change will still allow for the delivery of the content while providing greater flexibility for the GC.
Senator Gunn did an excellent job of explaining how continuing education (CE) will enhance the professionalism of the industry by providing licensees with vital information which will help protect them and the public. In his remarks, NCHBA Executive Vice President Mike Carpenter thanked the primary sponsors and the 33 co-sponsors (including 12 of the 17 members of the Ag/Env/NR committee). He noted that the bill enjoyed the support of a substantial majority of NCHBA members as well as that of the Associated General Contractors (AGC). Former NCHBA President Frank Wiesner, now the Executive Director of the NC Licensing Board for General Contractors – which will administer the CE program -advised the committee of the unanimous support of his board.
The bill will go back before the same committee for a vote next Wednesday. After its expected approval, the bill will head to the Senate Finance Committee and Senate Rules Committee before receiving a full Senate vote.
As next Tuesday’s public bill filing deadline approached, your legislative team worked overtime to ensure that several of our other legislative priorities were introduced this week. At the top of the list was SB 355 (Land Use Regulatory Changes) which was brought by primary sponsors Senator Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), Senator Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) and Senator Sam Searcy (D-Wake). Most of the provisions contained in this legislation have been in bills considered in both the 2015 and 2017 sessions. They include:
- Providing better protections to landowners by integrating permit choice and vesting safeguards
- Prohibiting rezoning petitions from being filed by anyone other than the landowner, his or her agent or the local government
- Allowing certain claims (e.g., constitutionality, illegality, preemption, takings) to be filed directly in Superior or Business Court bypassing the Board of Adjustment
- Allowing landowners to challenge illegal conditions imposed by local governments which were agreed to in order to obtain government approvals
- Adoption of a more realistic standard to award attorneys’ fees to landowners who successfully contest illegal actions by local governments
- Limit illegal conditions in the issuance of conditional zoning and in special or conditional use permits
- Provide uniformity on curb cuts on state roads in municipalities
- Strengthen the doctrine of preemption with respect to the uniform statewide building code
In the prior sessions, this similar legislation passed the House but stalled in the Senate just short of passage. We believe the prospects for favorable Senate action are brighter this year.
Another of NCHBA’s pro-active bills was introduced by Representatives Mark Brody (R-Union), Julia Howard (R-Davie) and Brian Turner (D-Buncombe) on Wednesday. HB 492 (Simplify Builders’ Inventory Exclusion), as the title indicates, will simplify the process of claiming the tax benefit. In 2015, NCHBA legislative staff worked hard for the passage of HB 168 (Exempt Builders’ Inventory) which allowed a builder to claim an exemption from higher property taxes on land and houses held for sale by a builder to the extent that the increase is attributable to subdivision or other improvement. This law excludes from the annual tax bill any increased assessment arising from the improvements on any land or home held for sale.
Currently, a builder is required to file for this exemption every January in the tax office where the property is located. This bill would relieve the builder from having to file for this exemption every year after filing the first year as long as the property continues to be held as the builder’s inventory. Further, it would also extend the exemption from its current 3 years to 5 years on residential property. These steps will ease the administrative burden on the builder as well as the county tax department. This exemption has saved thousands of dollars for various builders since 2015.
Because of this bill and others to come, NCHBA is pleased to name Representative Mark Brody as this week’s NCHBA “Legislator of the Week”.
Also, this week, Senator Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) proposed legislation with the full support of NCHBA which would clarify that legislative authorization is needed by local jurisdictions in order to enact a valid “tree protection” ordinance. Currently, there are numerous local jurisdictions across the state who have adopted tree protection ordinances without the expressed authorization of a local act by the General Assembly. SB 367 (Clarify Property Owners’ Rights) provides that specific authority by the General Assembly is required to adopt an ordinance or enforce an existing ordinance. The bill also requires that authorized ordinances must include a provision which allows a private property owner to remove any tree on the property which interferes with a construction or renovation project as long as the owner replaces the tree with a sapling tree of the same or similar type. Senator McInnis was joined by Senator Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) and Senator Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) in introducing this important legislation.
Senator McInnis also introduced legislation with NCHBA’s full support which would limit a county and municipality’s ability to misuse its conditional zoning power. SB 406 (Limit Conditional Zoning) would not allow any local government to impose through ordinance, regulation, or permit requirements, any condition through zoning classification, unless the city or county has received authority from the General Assembly. Finally, mark your calendar! NCHBA’s Legislative Reception and Legislative Day are just around the corner. May 21st will mark our 2nd Quarter Meeting followed by an always-popular reception honoring members of the General Assembly and Council of the State at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. The NCHBA Legislative Day will be held on May 22nd at the General Assembly. Let your voice be heard by lawmakers!
Legislator Of The Week
Representative Mark Brody (R-Anson, Union)
Representative Mark Brody of Union County is one of the top advocates for the home building industry at the General Assembly. We thank Representative Brody for his leadership and for helping shape policies that keep housing affordable for North Carolina families.