2007 Summary of CT's Regular Legislative Session
June 27, 2007

The 2007 Connecticut General Assembly met in regular session from January 3 to midnight on June 6. Legislators drafted about 4,000 bills (i.e., proposed laws) plus over 5,000 amendments. The HBA of Connecticut closely monitors all legislation, testified on over 30 bills at public hearings and worked many others in the capitol hallways. In addition, over 90 members came together for a full morning of direct talks with legislators on our annual Home Building Industry Day at the Capitol in April. A special session was held in late June to wrap up work on the state budget and tax package and some other business not attended to during the regular session.

Each year, major issues facing the Connecticut legislature take center stage. Extreme political dynamics complicated much of this session with 1) Democrats holding for the first time in many years a veto proof majority in both the House and the Senate, and 2) a Republican Governor who originally proposed an income tax increase and substantial new state spending, surprising many at the capitol, but then backed off when substantial and unanticipated new state revenues came in April. Developing a new two-year state budget with a variety of tax increases and new expenses; addressing energy generation, distribution and costs; providing health insurance to those who do not have it; and many other controversial issues faced this year’s state general assembly.

Over 200 proposed new laws would have directly affected our industry. This report is a summary of the most important bills on which the HBA lobbied. New laws from the 2007 regular and special session and their effective dates, as well as significant bills that died, are listed. A public act number may not have been assigned at the time of this writing.

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

Public Act 07-4, Senate Bill ("SB") 1500, An Act Implementing the State Budget Concerning General Government, sections 33, 38-50. These sections adopt the HOMEConnecticut legislation that the HBA strongly supported. A full summary and details about the legislation (referenced as SB 1057) can be found on our affordable and workforce housing page. In short, this program could change the face of housing in

Connecticut . It provides financial incentives to municipalities that zone for and allow the construction of higher density housing. It is voluntary on the part of municipalities. Towns and cities that adopt an incentive housing zone should work closely with developers to get this housing done. It will provide new housing to moderate income young people and workers, supporting our economic growth. While not receiving the level of funding this year to pay for the incentives that we had hoped, the structure of the program is in place and will be effective July 1, 2007.

Public Act 07-102, House Bill ("HB”) 7040, An Act Concerning Resubdivisions and Clarifying Considerations of Inland Wetlands Decisions by Planning and Zoning Commissions [HBA supports] Amends both site plan and subdivision statutes to clarify that planning and zoning commission must accept the filing of and process site plan or subdivision applications when the developer also has filed an inland wetlands permit application. As under current law, P&Z commissions must wait before deciding on the site plan or subdivision until it has reviewed the inland wetland decision. The bill has nothing to do with resubdivisions despite its title and takes effect October 1, 2007.

Public Act 07-182, SB 1100, An Act Concerning Offers to Purchase Subdivision Lots [HBA supports] Amends the prohibition on selling or offering to sell subdivision lots until final subdivision approval. The new law, effective July 1, 2007, prohibits only the transfer of title until after final approval. Developers may advertise, market and enter into sales contracts after conditional subdivision approval. Buyers of such conditional lots have a new right to rescind the sale if any new conditions or amendments occur with the final approval.

Public Act 07-239, HB 7090, An Act Concerning Responsible Growth [HBA supports compromise that passed; opposed original bills] This compromise legislation melded together two major initiatives on smart growth (now called responsible growth), SB 1215 (a massive proposal from 1,000 Friends of CT) and HB 7090 (the Governor’s proposal). Troubling provisions from these bills that were not included in the compromise were the following:

  • A massive state tax increase (1.2 billion plus in new taxes) and a transfer of the revenue to municipalities so they would reduce local property taxes. No mechanism or guarantee of a property tax reduction was proposed, and legislators who have served at the local level as selectmen, mayors or on finance boards scoffed at the proposal.
  • A heightened role for regional planning agencies and councils of elected officials to control local land use planning. SB 1215 was changed for the worse when it passed out of the planning and development committee by authorizing these regional entities to approve "projects of regional significance.” 1,000 Friends made the erroneous claim that if a local land use board denied a project the regional entity could overrule it by granting approval. But the bill’s provision clearly meant that approvals at all levels of government would be necessary to go forward with a project. Not only was the new level of government control over projects rejected but also the low threshold for such projects (tying such projects to those that require State Traffic Commission approvals) would have reached hundreds of developments that would not have any regional significance.
  • Much greater application of the state plan of conservation and development to all state funding sources, including bonding authority and quasi-public state agencies, and to potentially all state agency permit decisions because state agency "actions” was not clarified in the bill. Until the misuse of the state plan of C&D is fixed (e.g., state agencies are treating the locational guide map in the plan as a master statewide zoning map), enough legislators rejected a greater role for the state plan.

The compromise bill creates a task force to develop responsible growth criteria, requires the creation of an economic development strategic plan for the state, and requires OPM to study ways to create more regional cooperation in public service delivery and sharing of revenues.

Public Act 07-141, SB 167, An Act Revising the Process for the Taking of Real Property by Municipalities for Redevelopment and Economic Development [HBA supports] After two years of fierce debate at the capitol, this is the compromise legislation that places greater restrictions on the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes. It does not go as far as many advocates wanted (e.g., does not place an absolute ban on the taking of a private home for economic development) but it is a good step in controlling eminent domain abuse of private property rights. Public Act 07-207, SB 1054, was also passed and contains amendments to SB 167 previously passed. Some of the highlights on the new restrictions include the following [postscript - the following does not include some changes made in the September 2007 special session]:

  • Payment for a taking of property would be 125% of fair market value
  • Relocation benefits are increased
  • Improving the tax base of a community is not a permissible public purpose and the public benefits or use of the taken property must outweigh any private benefits (i.e., the economic development aspects of the taking)
  • Requires two-thirds vote of the legislative body to take private property
  • New and enhanced public notice and participation requirements are required before a property can be taken
  • Requires a municipality to more clearly defines how an area is deteriorating to justify a taking
  • Requires a municipality to determine that it is not feasible to integrate the taken property into the economic development plan
  • Provides owners of taken property the right of first refusal to buy back the property if the economic development plan does not proceed within 5 years
  • If a developer represents to a home owner that their property can be taken by eminent domain or threatens to do so, it will be a violation of the CT Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Public Act 07-231, HB 6768 – An Act Concerning the Approval of Small Alternative On-Site Sewage Treatment Systems [HBA Supports] This bill transfers from DEP to DPH the authority to regulate advanced treatment wastewater systems of 5,000 gallons or less. Pursuant to DPH regulations to be drafted, DPH or local health directors or sanitarians will be able to review and approve such smaller AT systems. A 5,000 gallon system would serve up to 33 total bedrooms in a development. However, implementation by DPH depends on the transfer of some minimal funds to DPH from the Clean Water Act fund.

Public Act 07-242, HB 7432 – An Act Concerning Energy and Electric Efficiency [HBA opposed one section of this massive energy issues bill; supported certain other sections]. The section opposed (section 78, at page 114 of PA 07-242) requires the adoption of new green building construction standards into the state building code for all buildings except residential containing 4 units or fewer. Such standards are to be the LEEDS silver building rating, two-globe rating in the Green Globes USA design program, or an equivalent standard. The HBA had a commitment with the House Chairman of the Energy Committee to remove all residential from this requirement, but the final bill was passed without his support, a very rare event. Other sections extend and expand sales tax exemptions to support energy efficient technology, specifically Energy Star appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs. The Governor vetoed sections 126 and 128 of this massive 165 page legislation. See also Public Act 07-255 (HB 7332), eliminating the expiration date on property tax exemptions for solar energy heating and cooling systems.

The following additional bills were passed:

  • The Finance Committee, as part of its tax package, repealed the scheduled sunset on the increase in the municipal conveyance tax adopted 3 years ago, effectively making the municipal tax of 0.25% permanent. The special session will very likely confirm the Finance Committee’s action on this issue.
  • Public Act 07-60 (SB 1085) [HBA Supports] – clarifies that appeals from special exception or special permits may be taken to superior court. This corrects a court decision that said such appeals should go to the zoning board of appeals. Effective October 1, 2007.
  • Public Act 07-110 (SB 1093) [HBA Neutral] – Changes the limit on increases of the building code education fee from four percent per year to four cents per year. The current fee of 16 cents per $1,000 of construction value declared in a building permit application has not changed since the code education fee was adopted. The bill also authorizes persons to apply to the State Building Inspector for a variation or exemption from the state building code, or for approval of an equivalent or alternate compliance with the code, and authorizes the State Building Inspector to grant such applications where strict compliance with the code would cause practical difficulty or unnecessary hardship. Effective October 1, 2007.
  • Public Act 07-68 (HB 5286) [HBA Neutral] – Condominium associations in flood zones are to carry flood insurance. Effective October 1, 2007.
  • Public Act 07-233 (HB 7369) [HBA Supports] – Makes many beneficial changes to law and policy for cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields (contaminated sites), opening up more opportunities for development. Effective July 1, 2007.
  • Public Act 07-154 (HB 6856) [HBA Neutral on compromise; strongly opposed original bill] Compromise authorizes a pilot program in Stonington, New London, Norwalk and New Haven to establish municipal stormwater authorities to implement a stormwater management program. The original bill would have given all municipalities vague and blanket authority to tax, assess, and charge fees and fines for new local stormwater authorities despite the existing and significant state regulation of stormwater issues. Effective upon passage.
  • Public Act 07-89 (SB 931) [HBA Neutral] Authorizes the Labor Commissioner to issue stop work orders to an employer who fails to obtain insurance or provides satisfactory proof of self-insurance for the employer’s workers’ compensation liability, or who intends to injure, defraud or deceive the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer by knowingly misrepresenting an employee as an independent contractor, or providing false, incomplete or misleading information to the insurance company on the number of employees in order to pay a lower premium. Current law provides that these offenses are subject to a class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a fine of $5,000, or both, and civil penalties from the Labor Department. The bill includes procedures for investigations and issuing and terminating stop work orders. Effective October 1, 2007.
  • Public Act 07-206 (SB 1043) [HBA Neutral] Increases the penalty for violating the occupational licensing laws (e.g., working without a license or apprentice permit, willfully employing someone without a license or apprentice permit) from $200 to $1,000 per violation and making such violations a class B misdemeanor.
  • Public Act 07-2 (HB 8002) [HBA Neutral] Sections 47-60 amends the state’s lead-paint poisoning prevention program, mandating greater child screening by health care providers, mandating certain insurance coverage for lead screening, and creating a remediation option for owners of properties, falling between full abatement and management of deteriorated lead-paint. Remediation "means the use of interim controls, including, but not limited to, paint stabilization, spot point repair, dust control, specialized cleaning and covering of soil with mulch.”

Bills that were NOT passed by the legislature

SB 1084 – An Act Reorganizing Local Land Use Commissions [HBA supported]. Authorized municipalities to reorganize their local land use boards into a land use commission that writes the plan of conservation and development and all applicable regulations, another body to review all applications in a one-stop shop permitting process, and a board of appeals to handle necessary variances. The bill passed the Planning & Development Committee and the full Senate on a 31-5 vote but was not taken up in the House.

HB 7393 - [HBA strongly opposed] - Riparian protection areas. The original bill would have authorized local inland wetland agencies to regulate 100 feet of upland outward from all inland wetlands and watercourses, treating this 100 foot area identically to the wetlands and watercourses themselves. It effectively repeals the legislative compromise on the 2004 salamander litigation in the state supreme court and pushes further out all upland reviews areas by an additional 100 feet. The bill that passed the Environment Committee limited the 100 foot extension to most watercourses in the state, but the HBA also opposed this change. The HBA lobbied hard against this unwarranted extension of jurisdiction until it was killed in another committee.

SB 1215 – [HBA strongly opposed] - 1,000 Friends of CT responsible growth proposal – see HB 7090 under bills passed.

HB 6402 - [HBA strongly opposed] - This bill would have adopted a moratorium on the permitting and construction of advanced treatment (AT) wastewater systems. It was designed by its primary sponsor, Sen. Ed Meyer, to stop a specific proposed development in his district. Passed by the Environment Committee and supported by environmental organizations, the proposal was amended onto another bill that passed the Senate but not taken up in the House.

The following additional bills were NOT passed

Defeating bad proposals for the industry and housing consumers are just as significant as the bills the HBA got adopted:

  • Many bills/amendments to repeal or amend 8-30g;
  • Authorizing a new fee in-lieu-of subdivision sidewalks;
  • Authorizing off-site improvements for subdivisions;
  • Authorizing impact fees on new development;
  • Incorporated LEED green building standards into all residential, including single family homes despite the fact that the LEED for homes rating system is not yet developed;
  • Authorizing planning and zoning commissions to consider the past performance of a developer in approving applications;
  • Authorizing a new municipal conveyance tax on new development to support open space purchases and other public services;
  • Authorizing a 20% local tax on mining sand, gravel and stone (later changed to $1/ton);
  • Mandating the testing and licensing of home improvement contractors;
  • Requiring all conservation development zones to provide an increase of 10% density over underlying zone and 40% net open space set aside (i.e., after wetlands, steep slopes and many other areas removed from the calculation);
  • Creating an express trust, with fiduciary responsibilities, for payments received by a general contractor and that are owed to a subcontractor – to protect the subcontractor if the GC files for bankruptcy;
  • Changing the 3:1 hiring ratio in the licensed trades (3 journeymen to 1 apprentice) to a 1:1 ratio did not make it out despite support in the House to finally make this necessary change to help the licensed trades grow their workforce.

In addition, the HBA also worked on forty to fifty bills not listed here to protect the interests of the housing industry.

If any HBA member has any questions about any bill that passed or died, please feel free to call Bill Ethier in the HBA of CT office at 860-216-5858.

 

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