2000 Legislative Summary

List of Bills (As of 5/4/00)

(HB = House Bill; SB = Senate Bill; AAC = "An Act Concerning”)(The HBA’s position is noted after the bill’s name)

Bills That Have Been Enacted Into Law

HB 5590, AAC Consumer Protection for New Home Construction (Support)- Amends the new home construction contractor registration act, which became effective 10/1/99, by closing certain loopholes and making implementation easier. Specifically, this bill does the following:

  • Closes the speculative builder loophole. Current law does not apply to builders who wait until after construction before marketing or selling their homes (i.e., they build on speculation). This bill closes that loophole and puts all homebuilders on the same level playing field while protecting all consumers.
  • Exempts licensed real estate brokers or salespersons and licensed trade contractors who perform only the work for which they are licensed. It also exempts small contractors who contract separately with new homebuyers but whose total work on a new home does not exceed $3,500. These exemptions are necessary so as not to include businesses never intended to be covered under the homebuilder registration program. In addition, these exempt persons who had to register as of 10/1/99 will be reimbursed upon request.
  • Removes the residence address requirement imposed on the home building business owner. The personal residence of the business owner is not necessary and is an invasion of privacy. The street address for the construction company is added to the law. Necessary corrections are also made to the insurance provisions of the law, and the penalty for failing to return a deposit when required under the act was changed from a misdemeanor A to treble damages.
  • The bill clarifies the requirement to offer a list of the most recent 15 customers as references by defining customers to be placed on such list as those that have received a certificate of occupancy (i.e., at the end of the construction process). This makes it easier for builders to track who has to go on this list. The specific number of customers on the list is also changed from 15 to 12 and the specific time line of how far to reach back is changed from 18 to 24 months.
  • The requirement to place a contractor’s registration number in all advertising was not changed.

SB 367, AAC Sheet Metal Workers and New Home Construction (Monitor)- Expands definition of "heating, piping and cooling work” under the licensing statutes to include sheet metal work. Also creates an exemption from new home construction contractor registration act for licensed trades identical to the exemption in HB 5590.

HB 5424, AAC Permits to Construct or Alter Buildings or Structures (Support) - Home improvement contractors must register with the Dept. of Consumer Protection. This bill requires that such contractor’s registration number be listed on a building permit application when the contractor pulls a permit. About half of municipalities already require this. The bill does not require homeowners pulling permits to list a contractor registration number but the presence of the information request on the building permit application will help to educate consumers about the contractor registration law.

HB 5177, AAC Village Districts (Support) - Amends and clarifies much of the village district authority established two years ago in our zoning laws. The bill replaces vague language with more certain criteria on what can be regulated and to what land and activities village district regulations apply.

SB 76, AAC Transcripts of Meetings of Municipal Land Use Agencies (Support) - Allows any applicant to a local land use commission or third party to the application to record the decision making meeting of the commission and have a transcript of such recording automatically become part of the record if an appeal from the decision is taken. Oddly, municipal land use boards are required to record only public hearings and not their decision making meetings, leading to post hoc justifications and proceedings before courts on what transpired at the decision meeting.

HB 5883, AAC The Open Space Trust Fund (Support/Monitor) - Establishes a new "Charter Oak Trust Fund” for the purchase of land for open space. Originally would have been funded by a portion of the budget surplus - 35% of surplus, up to $50 million, for next three years. The final budget allocates $10 million of the surplus to this new fund. The fund is tied directly to the balanced criteria of the existing open space purchase and grant programs. The final version also includes a provision, which we promoted in the Environment Committee, that mandates the fund be extinguished when the state reaches its open space goals. Since the funding source is broad based, unlike conveyance taxes and land exactions, and its use must follow a balanced process for selecting appropriate lands to be purchased, this bill meets appropriate conditions for purchasing more land for open space. Implementation problems with the current open space criteria are being addressed by the HBA. An amendment to this bill includes a strong recommendation to the bond commission to spend the remaining $6.5 million in authorizations for the farmland preservation program. However, an increase in bond authorizations for the farmland preservation program was not approved (see HB 5173 under bills that did not pass below).

HB 5107, An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission to Study Affordable Housing (Support compromise/Oppose further changes) - This bill, one of many bills arising from the Blue Ribbon Commission’s work, makes changes to Conn. General Statues ("C.G.S.”), section 8-30g, the Affordable Housing Appeals Act. This bill was a compromise between supporters of the act, such as the HBA, and opponents who wanted it repealed. The bill does the following: 1) requires the submission of an affordability plan with sample calculations of sale prices for the affordable units; 2) amends the affordability requirements for set-aside developments by changing the set-aside units from 25% to 30% and deed restrictions to 40 years; and creates a new 3 year moratorium from 8-30g appeals for municipalities that demonstrate significant progress toward the construction of affordable units.

HB 5580, AAC Violation of Tree Cutting Practices (Monitor/Oppose revocation of approvals) - Increases penalties for cutting trees in the public way from current $100 to replacement cost of tree. Replacement cost of tree(s) must follow standardized process for valuation of trees. Original bill included a penalty of revocation of development approvals.

SB 550, AAC Protection for Equipment Rental (Monitor) - Gives mechanics lien rights to equipment rental suppliers. Passed both chambers unanimously.

SB 384, AAC The Disposal of Construction and Demolition Wood Generated By Residences (Support) - Defines "construction or demolition wood generated at a residence, other than wood that has been pressure treated or that otherwise contains arsenic” as municipal solid waste and may be disposed of at any solid waste disposal area. This gives a contractor another option for disposing of such wood.

SB 514 (Monitor) – Increases the small claims limit from $2,500 to $3,500.

HB 5178 (Oppose) – Adopts a new $3 fee for the recordation of all documents on the land records. Funds from this new fee are to go toward the preservation of historic documents.

HB 5160 (Oppose/Monitor) – Increases the minimum wage to $6.70.

Bills That Did NOT Pass

SB 366, AAC Home Improvement Contracts (Support/Monitor) - Would require contractors who provide financing to consumers to include a plain language statement of financing terms; would void contracts where contractor is a party or signatory to any insurance settlement arising from property loss. The HBA opposed an amendment that had been filed, but not called, to license home improvement contractors. Bill died in the Senate.

HB 5851, An Act Implementing Technical and Minor Revisions to Certain Statutes (Monitor) - One provision would waive renewal fee for home improvement contractor of record of a registered corporation if such contractor uses registration for sole purpose of directing, supervising or performing home improvements for corporation. Current law technically only exempts this fee upon initial application but DCP in practice has not charged the fee upon renewal. Bill died in the House.

HB 5426, AAC Applications to Planning and Zoning Commissions (Support) – Would authorize, but not mandate, municipal land use boards and their agents to meet with potential applicants prior to filing applications to discern and work out issues. The meetings are voluntary on the part of local boards and decision makers as well as for applicants. Issues discussed at these meetings are not binding and cannot provide grounds for liability on the part of any of the participants in such meetings but they can be productive in producing better initial land use applications. Bill passed the House 133-15 but died without a vote in the Senate.

HB 5169, AAC Zoning Regulation of Signs (Oppose) - Would authorize zoning commissions to regulate the aesthetics of signs, adding to existing authority to regulate size, height and location of signs. Bill died in Planning & Development Committee.

HB 5167, AAC Downtown Development Districts (Oppose) - Section 7 of bill would give zoning commissions vague authority to create "design districts” and regulate subjective and aesthetic matters within the districts; remainder of bill authorizes creation of downtown development districts and establish a grant program to fund their creation. Bill died in Planning & Development Committee.

HB 5549, AAC Subdivision Regulations (Oppose) - Would create vague authority for zoning commissions to regulate "natural resource areas” in addition to open space and parkland to create standards for the building envelope (i.e., how much of a lot must be preserved and where a building is situated on a lot, going beyond set back and side yard requirements). Bill died in Planning & Development Committee.

HB 5756, AAC Municipal Impact Fees for Removal of Nonrenewable Resources (Oppose) - Would authorize municipal impact fees to be imposed for the removal of a nonrenewable resource, which is defined as a resource limited in supply and does not have the capacity to be replaced through natural processes for a number of years as determined by the municipality. This certainly means land and could mean much more. The fees collected would go into a municipal land acquisition account. Bill died in Planning & Development Committee.

SB 304, AA Establishing a Grant Incentive Program to Curb Urban Sprawl and Traffic Congestion (Oppose) - This bill would establish a $20 million grant program for developing local and regional plans that address traffic congestion, mass transit, burgeoning sprawl and other issues - all important issues but the smart growth blue ribbon commission has yet to meet (see HB 5264 below) to discuss these issues. Moreover, under this bill OPM would establish priorities, program categories and eligibility requirements for the grant program, yet there is not a consensus on OPM’s current land use policies as outlined in the state’s plan of conservation and development (e.g., what plans would be promoted through this grant program? Would OPM continue to encourage urban growth boundaries as is done in the state plan of conservation and development?). Bill died in Appropriations Committee.

HB 5264, AA Establishing the Smart Growth Economic Development Act of 2000 (Oppose all except study commission section) – Original bill included new smart growth council and grant program, which we opposed. As passed in the Planning & Development Committee, this bill would merely establish a blue ribbon commission to study smart growth. The Home Builders Association has studied and commented on land use and growth controls, including so-called smart growth proposals, for many years. These issues are central to our members’ concerns and we would have sought appointments to the commission if this became law. The bill died in the House. The HBA is examining whether any tasks forces were attached as amendments to other bills in the late hours of the final night of the session.

HB 5173, AAC Connecticut’s Working Lands (Support with conditions) - Would increase bond funds, from current $83 million to $133 million, going to the existing "purchase of development rights” ("PDR”) program within the Dept. of Agriculture that is intended to preserve prime farmland. The HBA argued that before funding is increased for this important program, the criteria for selecting farms that receive funds under the PDR program should be reviewed and updated to ensure that they are reasonable, balanced and meet the goals of the program. The 1998 report on Open Space Acquisition by the Program Review and Investigations Committee was a good start to this process. Also, the statute should specifically prohibit the use of funds for "estate farms” that serve to only increase the market value of properties for wealthy landowners. But see HB 5883 under bills that were enacted into law.

SB 147, AAC Tax Credits For Owners of Residential Property With Affordable Housing Deed Restrictions (Monitor) - Would authorize municipalities to offer property tax credits to homeowners in exchange for affordable housing deed restrictions on their homes to promote maintaining affordable housing for the future. Concerns included potential adverse impacts on owners who cannot recover their equity if interest rates go up. Also, how would towns market this program to owners, especially the elderly? The bill died in the Senate.

SB 45, An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission to Study Affordable Housing (Originally Supported) - This bill would make changes to C.G.S. section 8-2, the Zoning Enabling Statute, by clarifying the existing requirement that zoning regulations shall be adopted to promote housing choice. It represented a significant benefit for the for-profit home building industry by mandating the adoption of affordable housing regulations. However, the Commerce Committee changed the requirement from "shall” to "may” adopt such regulations, completely changing the complexion of the bill. The HBA was then forced to work against it and obtained commitments from the Senate and House that the bill would not go forward. Note: All other bills arising out of the Blue Ribbon Commission to Study Affordable Housing, other than HB 5107, died without votes in either chamber.

SB 438, AAC Voluntary Environmental Audits (Oppose amendment) – An amendment was filed on this bill that would have prohibited soil mixing as a method of remediating soil contamination. Due to this and other amendments filed on this bill, the bill died without a vote in the House after the underlying bill passed the Senate.

HB 5168, AAC Municipal Plans of Conservation and Development (Oppose/Monitor) - Original bill would have transferred authority to write local plan of conservation and development from planning commission to chief elected official. Bill that passed Planning & Development committee kept authority with planning commission but mandated it form a drafting committee of other town boards and decision makers to write plan, following our comments at public hearing. However, even this plan would have to be approved by municipal legislative authority, which we opposed, rather than by planning commission alone. Bill died in the Senate.

HB 5286, AA Implementing the Recommendations of the Program Review and Investigations Committee Regarding Lead-Paint (Support/Oppose various sections) - Would make numerous changes to our lead-paint law; opposed changing the elevated blood lead level trigger for abatement orders; supported studying the potential to target areas of the state for further lead-paint reduction efforts. Bill died in Public Health Committee.

HB 5566, An Act Establishing a Program to Promote Environmentally Safe Housing for Children and Families (Monitor) - Would create new fund under a pilot program to educate landlords and tenants regarding lead-paint and to make grants to landlords to replace windows. Bill died in Appropriations Committee but a non-funded pilot program was hidden in another bill on the last night of the session.

 

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