2002 Legislative Session Wrap Up

The 2002 Connecticut General Assembly met in regular session from February 6 to midnight on May 8 - a "short” session year. The HBA of Connecticut testified on over 20 bills (i.e., proposed laws) and worked on many additional bills and amendments. This report is a brief synopsis of the significant bills that that became law in 2002 affecting our industry and the bills that died (the HBA’s position is noted in parenthesis).

 

The regular session ended without an agreement on the state budget, so a special budget session will be held. A couple of bills that died could be revived in this special session.

 

Bills that were passed and signed (or will be) by the Governor

 

Public Act 02-74 (Senate Bill 68)Section 1 (Support) requires zoning commissions when adopting, changing or repealing zoning regulations or boundaries to consider and comment on it findings on consistency with the local plan of conservation and development. The HBA opposed an original proposal that would have required strict consistency between local zoning and the local plan of C&D. Section 2 (Support) clarifies that site plan decisions are appealed to superior court, removing confusion caused by the Borden decision. Section 3 (Monitor) changes the penalty provisions for violating zoning regulations to a maximum fine of $150 for each day a violation continues rather than for a single violation. The HBA opposed an additional change that would have removed the treble damages sanction against zoning enforcement officers if they issue citations frivolously or without probable cause. Effective 10/1/02.

 

Public Act 02-77 (House Bill 5068) (Support) – Authorizes zoning commissions to "act upon” rather than "adopt or deny” zoning petitions (i.e., applications to change the zoning regulations or map), allowing zoning commissions to modify and approve petitions. Effective upon passage and applicable to petitions filed on and after said date.

 

Special Act 02-13 (Senate Bill 599) (Monitor) – Establishes a blue ribbon commission on property tax burdens and smart growth incentives. The HBA supported an alternative smart growth study bill. Effective upon passage.

 

Public Act 02-87 (House Bill 5434) (Oppose) – A "compromise" bill making further changes to the affordable housing appeals act. This bill extends, from three to four years, the length of an affordable housing appeals procedure moratorium. It eliminates the owner-occupied requirement for local option property tax credits triggered by an affordable housing deed restriction. It adds certain mobile homes and accessory apartments to the list of dwelling units municipalities can count toward the ten percent trigger that makes the appeals procedure unavailable to an applicant. Finally, the bill requires DECD to adopt model deed restrictions that satisfy the requirements of the appeals act. Effective 10/1/01.

 

Public Act 02-129 (Senate Bill 465) (Oppose) – Prohibits wastewater discharge permits for alternative on-site sewage treatment systems, as defined in the Public Health Code, in a drinking water supply watershed unless the Dept. Environmental Protection determines that 1) such system is the only feasible solution to an existing pollution problem and that the proposed capacity does not exceed the capacity of the failed on-site system, or 2) such system is for the expansion or new construction of an existing or public school. The intent of the bill is to prevent more intense developments on drinking water supply watersheds. The water resource is already protected by existing water quality standards that must be met for any discharge permit.

 

Alternative on-site sewage treatment systems do not include systems using subsurface sewage disposal (i.e., leach fields). An exchange on the House floor between legislators clarified that it is not the intent of the bill to apply to any permit applications in the pipeline or to single-family home developments. The bill that passed was a compromise proposal to try to satisfy our concerns. The HBA strongly opposed the original bill that would have required such permits to be consistent with the state plan of conservation and development and would have required local zoning approval prior to receiving a DEP wastewater discharge permit. Effective 10/01/02.

 

Public Act 02-122 (House Bill 5456) (Support) – Provides protection to sellers of 1 – 4 family dwellings, including home builders, from liability for any duty to disclose the presence of hazardous waste facilities, provided such seller provides written notice to the purchaser, prior to, or upon, entering into the contract of the availability of the lists of hazardous waste facilities pursuant to section 22a-134f of the general statutes, which currently requires DEP to provide to municipalities, and municipal clerks to post, such lists. This bill also places the onus on the buyer to inform the seller that knowledge that the site was at any time the site of a homicide, other felony or suicide is important to the buyer’s decision to purchase. Effective 10/1/01.

 

Public Act 02-72 (Senate Bill 390) (Monitor) – Requires the State Building Inspector and State Fire Marshal to create a list of variations and exemptions from, respectively, the State Building Code or State Fire Safety Code that they have issued over the previous two years. The list is to be updated biennially, sent to local code officials, publicize the list and educate local code officials on how to use the list. Also, any application for a variation or exemption received by a local code official shall be forwarded to the State Building Inspector or State Fire Marshal within 15 business days of receipt by such local code official and shall include comments on the merits of the application. Effective 10/01/02.

 

Public Act 02-82 (House Bill 5251) (Monitor) – Among numerous provisions related to other industries regulated by the Department of Consumer Protection, this bill prohibits licensed tradesmen from starting jobs unless the required building permit related to their trade has been obtained, exempts registered well drillers working in their trade from the home improvement contractor registration act (the law already exempts licensed tradesmen and professionals, provided they are working in their field), and increases from $10,000 to $15,000 the maximum bond the DCP Commissioner may impose on a registered home improvement contractor as a result of a disciplinary action. The HBA unsuccessfully tried to use this bill as a vehicle to exempt certain activities performed by home builders and remodelers from the new sheet metal work license requirements. Effective 10/01/02.

 

Public Act 02-142 (Senate Bill 501) (Monitor) – Establishes continuing education requirements for electricians and plumbers for annual license renewals. The associations for electricians and plumbers sought this new requirement. Effective 1/1/03.

 

Finally, see the note regarding Senate Bill 31 below and the new tax on the home building industry adopted during the legislature's special budget session in late 2002.

 

Bills that were not passed by the legislature

 

Senate Bill 31 (Oppose) – Diverts $1.2 million from the new home construction contractor guaranty fund to the general treasury, turning fees paid into a hidden tax. The bill would have diverted excess funds over a cap each year thereafter. The HBA defeated this bill in the Finance Committee during the regular session. BUT, this budget item returned in the legislature’s special budget session and was then adopted, effectively creating a new tax on the industry and overturning the agreement we made with legislators two years earlier in crafting the original new home construction contractor registration act.

 

Senate Bill 393 (Oppose) – Would allow each municipality, at its option, to require fire sprinkler installations in all new one and two-family homes.

 

Senate Bill 563 (Oppose) – Would base the calculation of the open space subdivision exaction of land or fees in-lieu-of land (set in the statute at 10%) on the value of the developer’s land after subdivision approval rather than the current prior to approval, effectively increasing the exaction two to three times. HBA also successfully opposed an amendment by the Environment Committee that would have provided a first right of refusal to municipalities if a property owner placed its open space land on the market.

 

Senate Bill 369 (Oppose Original Bill; Support Amended Bill) – Original bill would have required any developer of, and all contractors and subcontractors working on, a subdivision of 50 units or greater to attend an apprenticeship training course to be developed by the Department of Labor. The amended bill would have closed a loophole in the proof of workers compensation coverage shown to building officials to obtain a building permit. Current law allows sole proprietor general contractors, who are required to have workers compensation coverage, to merely file an affidavit (rather than show proof of their coverage like all other covered contractors) stating that they will require workers compensation coverage from all those working on the job site.

 

Senate Bill 76 (Oppose Without Needed Amendment) – Original bill expanded membership of State Traffic Commission to include environmental interests, required STC permits to be consistent with the state plan of conservation and development and reversed STC policy of requiring local approvals first before applying to STC. HBA supported only the last provision. Bill as amended deleted first two provisions, kept the HBA supported section, but went too far by requiring local land use public hearings to be kept open until the STC issues a permit, which would have substantially lengthened and complicated the already draconian local approval process.

 

House Bill 5401 (Support) – Would establish a revolving loan fund to help finance brownfields (i.e., contaminated site) redevelopment.

 

House Bill 5065 (Support) – Would require local governments to adopt floodplain restrictions required by the federal government and institute floodplain risk management programs. It also established a new fund and grant program to assist local governments with these tasks. Communities that accomplish these tasks would be eligible for federal floodplain development assistance and property owners would receive lower flood insurance premiums. According to national FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) regulations, these federal funds will be cut off for use by municipalities if the required restrictions are not adopted by November, 2003.

 

Senate Bill 348 (Support) – Would establish three conditions of lead-paint (intact, fair and poor) rather than the current two conditions (intact, deteriorated), allowing for the rehabilitation of older units without full lead abatement in all cases where children are present.

 

Senate Bill 611 (Oppose) – Increases the real estate conveyance tax by doubling the municipal portion of the tax. Would have added 11/100 (i.e., $110 per every $100,000 in sales price) to the tax.

 

House Bill 5415 (Oppose) – Required applicants to the State Traffic Commission to also submit the application to the Council on Environmental Policy and provides CEQ 120 days to issue a report to local land use boards.

 

House Bill 5250 (Oppose) – A bill proposed by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, would repeal language in the new home contractor registration act dealing with when a home builder must refund a deposit, effectively ignoring reality by requiring a builder to begin substantial construction within 30 days of the contract, which is virtually impossible for new home construction contracts.

 

Senate Bill 72 (Support Concept; Oppose Language) – Would create a sea change in the local land use process by establishing only two local boards, one to adopt the local plan of conservation and development and all zoning, planning and inland wetland regulations, and the other board to process all applications. The concept would establish a true one-stop, streamlined review process, but the language was severely flawed.

 

House Bill 5095 (Oppose) – Would establish a new state grant program for rural communities to protect their rural character by keeping out development.

 

The HBA also testified or otherwise worked on a number of other land use, affordable housing appeals act and contractor regulation bills that died this year. Please call the HBA of CT office with any questions or comments

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