Continuing Education For General Contractors Passes Senate Finance Committee Unanimously
One of NCHBA’s top legislative priorities took another step forward this week as SB 55 (Continuing Education for General Contractors) sponsored by Senators Rick Gunn (R-Alamance), Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus), and Don Davis (D-Greene) passed the Senate Finance Committee unanimously on Wednesday. The bill will now head to the Senate Rules Committee, which is expected to hear the bill next week, before being scheduled for a Senate floor vote.
The bill will require at least one qualifier of a building, residential or unclassified licensee to obtain 8 hours of instruction annually as a requirement for license renewal. Those 8 hours can be obtained either in the classroom or, beginning in 2021, online. Two of the hours will include a mandatory class approved by the NC Licensing Board for General Contractors, while 6 hours will be at the election of the contractor from sponsors and classes likewise approved by the board. The elective hours will provide the contractor with the flexibly to choose courses that best fit his or her individual construction needs.
Another of our top legislative priorities, SB 355 (Land-Use Regulatory Changes), sponsored by Senators Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) and Sam Searcy (D-Wake), had its initial hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Because some changes were made in the bill’s language since introduction, it was not eligible to be voted on during this meeting. Senator Bishop did an excellent job explaining the various provisions of the bill. NCHBA General Counsel Mike Carpenter answered several questions posed by committee members.
As anticipated, the bill was opposed by the local government associations and the city attorney for Raleigh. A representative of a major Raleigh developer also raised a concern about the bill’s application to conditional zoning. We anticipate amending the bill to clarify the bill’s language with respect to that issue and to resolve any other legitimate concerns raised. It is anticipated that the bill will be back before the Judiciary Committee next week.
Because of his excellent stewardship of this legislation, as well as his long record of support for pro-housing issues generally, we are proud to name Senator Dan Bishop as “NCHBA’s Legislator of the Week”! Please view the video link.
We are also pleased to report that the companion bill to SB 355 was filed yesterday in the House. The primary sponsors of HB 722 (Land-Use Regulatory Changes) are Representatives Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne), Debra Conrad (R-Forsyth) and Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland). This is an outstanding bi-partisan team of House members to carry the ball when SB 355 comes over from the Senate.
Also, SB 367 (Clarify Property Owners’ Rights), sponsored by Senators Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) and Brent Jackson (R-Sampson), cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday afternoon when it received a favorable report from the Senate State and Local Committee. The bill was amended by Senator McInnis to narrow the focus of the bill to its primary purpose which is to clarify that a local legislative act is needed for any municipality or county to enact a valid tree ordinance. Statewide, there are only 36 municipalities and two counties that have previously received legislative authority to enact an ordinance governing the regulation of trees. However, there are many jurisdictions who have adopted ordinances regulating trees without specific legislative authority to do so. Deleted was language which would have required previously authorized tree ordinances to adopt a cut and replace option.
Even as amended, the bill continues to face fierce opposition from local governments and environmentalists. However, the issue has boiled down to housing affordably and personal property rights as NCHBA’s Steven Webb pointed out during his remarks to the committee in favor of the bill. The NC Association of Realtors added their support to the bill. The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In cooperation with NCHBA, Representative Mark Brody (R-Union) introduced his annual reform bill directed at improving building conditions and procedures. Joining him as primary sponsors of HB 675 (2019 Building Code Regulatory Reform) were Reps. Dennis Riddell (R-Alamance), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) and Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland). This is the fifth “building code regulatory reform” bill in as many years. The major provisions in this year’s bill include:
- Requires the North Carolina Building Code Council to create an inspection form to be used by engineers and architects and clarifies that they can inspect foundations and underslabs.
- Adds a new level of inspector, residential changeout inspector, to assist with minor inspections which will free up existing inspectors to concentrate on new construction.
- Prohibits local governments from requiring developers/builders to bury existing power lines or bury relocated power lines that are located outside the subdivision. It also prohibits local governments from setting minimum square footage requirements for residential structures which is a major obstacle to the construction of workforce housing in those jurisdictions who enforce such requirements.
- Creates an exclusion from the NC Building Code for motion picture, television or theatre stage sets.
- Requires the North Carolina Building Code Council to conduct a cost/benefit analysis for a five-year period of all proposed changes to the North Carolina Energy Conservation Code.
- Requires the North Carolina Building Code Council to study options to dispose of dirt, sand, gravel, rock, concrete or other nonhazardous material at the site of construction including porch fill to decrease the volume to solid waste disposal facilities.
- Requires that a local government cannot impose a local ordinance or other policy other than those required under the NC Building Code to receive a temporary certificate of occupancy.
- Clarifies that it is illegal for someone to falsely claim to be a North Carolina licensed general contractor or suggests in connection with any business activities regulated by the North Carolina General Contractors Licensing Board.
- Requires if that a local government chooses to have plan review that the review for residential building plans must be performed within two business days for plans sealed by an engineer or architect. The plan review must take place within five business days for all other residential building plans.
- Increases the exemption to require an architect for a commercial building from a total value of $90,000 to $200,000 and 2,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet.
- Extends the time period for reporting fifteen or more framing violations to the North Carolina Department of Insurance to October 1, 2021.
- Allows a private property owner to select a testable backflow device for irrigation systems if it is in compliance with the North Carolina Plumbing Code.
The bill is expected to receive a hearing soon in the House State and Local Government Committee before heading to the House Regulatory Reform Committee.
Both the House and the Senate will take a “Spring Break” over the next two weeks, however, the two chambers’ breaks do not coincide. So next week, your NCHBA government affairs team will focus on passing several legislative priorities through Senate committees and the following week, we will focus on House legislation. The May 9th legislative “crossover” deadline is rapidly approaching. Generally, legislation must pass it chamber of origin and “crossover” to the other chamber to remain eligible for the remainder of this long session and next year’s short session.
Legislator of the Week
Senator Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg)
Senator Dan Bishop of Mecklenburg County is a stalwart supporter of the home building industry at the General Assembly. He is a primary sponsor of SB 355 (Land-Use Regulatory Changes). We thank Senator Bishop for his leadership on this issue and for helping shape policies that keep housing affordable for North Carolina families.