COVID-19 Recovery Acts Contain Several Important Provisions Initiated, or Supported, by NCHBA
In a rare Saturday session, the General Assembly passed two key COVID-19 recovery acts which contain several important provisions initiated, or supported, by NCHBA. In a remarkable display of bipartisanship, the bills passed unanimously in both chambers. Governor Cooper signed both bills today.
The Senate Committee Substitute for HB 1043 appropriates roughly $1.5 billion of more than $3.5 billion in federal funding made available to our state for the COVID-19 crisis as well as another $1 billion in federal aid that has come directly to the executive branch and local agencies. The remaining federal dollars will be allocated in an upcoming legislative session to come later in the summer.
The 70-page House Committee Substitute for SB 704 contain numerous provisions designed to respond to the COVID crisis including those specifically sought, or supported, by NCHBA. They are:
1. Extend the Effective Date of Chapter 160D from January 1, 2021, until August 1, 2021, to allow sufficient time to enact legislation to incorporate provisions of current law contained in NCHBA’s historic land-use regulatory legislation, and other NCHBA legislation, enacted during the 2019 session as well as language improvements into the new Chapter 160D before it becomes effective. Chapter 160D combines and modernizes the planning and zoning provisions of existing local government laws. A bill incorporating all of the necessary and desirable changes sought by us was approved yesterday by the General Statutes Commission and will be introduced soon.
2. Extends Certain Local Government Development Approvals for five (5) months for any development approval “that is current and valid at any point during the period beginning March 10, 2020, and ending April 28, 2020”. These development approvals include building permits, erosion and sedimentation control plans, sketch plans, preliminary plats, plats, phased development plans or development agreements.
3. Good Funds Settlement Act Revision allows a settlement agent in a residential real estate transaction to disburse closing funds prior to recording the deed or deed of trust in the register of deeds office upon the written consent of all parties. This authority is limited to instances where there is a declared state of emergency and the register of deeds office is closed to the public.
4. Allow Licensed Soil Scientists to Evaluate, Inspect and Approve On-Site Wastewater System Projects During the Coronavirus Emergency. Allows licensed soil scientist to prepare signed and sealed soil and site evaluations, specifications, plans and reports for site layout, construction, operation and maintenance of a wastewater system without needing any further certification. Likewise, the soil scientist would be able to conduct all necessary inspections including a final inspection and report.
5. Directs State Agencies to Exercise Regulatory Flexibility During the Coronavirus Emergency. Allows agencies to delay the collection of fines, renewal dates or other certifications if deemed advisable.
6. Provides Time-Limited Civil Liability Immunity to “Essential Businesses” for injuries or death resulting from customers or employees contracting COVID-19 at the business. Immunity does not apply if the harm is caused by gross negligence, reckless misconduct or intentional infliction of harm.
7. Protected Employer Interests in Unemployment Compensation System. An earlier version of SB 704 would have increased benefit amounts and changed the formula for computing compensation to the detriment of employers. This would have more quickly reduced the trust fund balance and caused an earlier trigger of a surcharge tax on employers. The final version did not contain this provision. Assuming the Governor signs the bills, as expected, we will follow up next week with a more detailed discussion of these provisions. The General Assembly will recess today but will return for a more traditional short session in the weeks ahead.