2008 Summary of CT's Regular Legislative Session
May 14, 2008

RB = Raised Bill; AAC = An Act Concerning; If a bill is not acted upon (or taken up) by a committee or the House or Senate, the bill dies.

The 2008 legislative session ended May 7, 2008. This is a report on the major bills on which the HBA of CT worked. This year’s session, while producing thousands of proposed new laws, and which saw over 6,000 amendments filed by legislators, ended as a largely do nothing legislature for the residential development industry. It could have been disastrous for the industry if some of the bills noted below were adopted, and a number of these bills died only because of HBA opposition.

Only those bills noted below beginning with "PUBLIC ACT 08-____” were adopted by the legislature (some Pub. Act #s have not yet been assigned). They become law when the Governor signs them. Links to these new laws are provided below. All other legislation noted died. Unfortunately, in the anti-business and anti-new development climate of some major committees in the legislature and by some key legislators, most of the HBA of CT’s work is necessarily defensive. We must spend our resources and lobbying power trying to stop legislation that would add delays, costs or unwarranted requirements on the home building, remodeling or land development business. The HBA of CT’s testimony and talking points on key legislation can be found here.

The bills below are organized by the legislative committee in which they started (i.e., were raised). The HBA testified and worked on all of the following bills unless otherwise noted. The HBA’s efforts included tremendous support from members who attended our annual Home Building Industry Day at the Capitol on April 22 and who contacted their state legislators throughout the session. Many thanks to a strong and active membership for another successful legislative session.

If any HBACT member has any questions or comments about the association's legislative work, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Planning & Development Committee

  • RB 39, AAC Responsible Growth. A bill from the Governor, the HBA opposed every section of the original bill. The amended bill that passed P&D Committee was much better but the HBA continued to oppose 3 sections that would have required zoning, subdivision and wetland regulation changes to obtain town legislative approval if the P&Z commission deemed the changes inconsistent with the local plan of conservation and development – an entirely unworkable "solution” to an unidentified problem and which would have caused significant process delays. The Senate adopted an amendment that removed these sections but the House never took up the bill. Two related bills, RB 5673, Regional Plan Organization (RPO) Review of Projects of Regional Significance, defined as projects meeting State Traffic Commission thresholds; and RB 5674, Powers of RPOs, providing new regional taxing authority, both of which the HBA opposed, did not pass the Committee.
  • RB 5641, AAC Conservation Developments. HBA supported this bill that promoted clustered housing with a uniform framework; provided for a sliding scale of density bonuses for more open space set asides; and required these developments to be processed as traditional subdivisions by removing them from the special permit process. A joint Republican and Democrat amendment was drafted that addressed all expressed concerns but certain environmental groups continued to oppose the bill, despite environmentally minded legislators’ support. The bill was not acted upon by the House.
  • RB 5713, Special Tax Districts. An HBA bill, would have allowed an owner of undeveloped or unoccupied land to petition a local government to create a special tax district to finance infrastructure improvements. Under current law, a special tax district can be created only by a petition of 15 owners (which don’t exist on undeveloped or unoccupied property) or a special act of the legislature. It passed the P&D committee unanimously but was not acted upon by the Finance Committee.
  • RB 376, Land Use Docket. HBA supported this bill to establish a land use docket in the courts to handle land use and wetlands appeals and eminent domain disputes. The bill passed the P&D Committee but was not acted upon by the Judiciary Committee.
  • RB 5798, Green Building Tax Credit. HBA supported this bill with an amendment to include NAHB’s green home standard. The bill passed the Committee with just the LEED system for commercial buildings. Proponents of the LEED rating system actively oppose recognition of other green building standards. The bill was not taken up by the Senate.
  • RB 5714, AAC Starter Homes. HBA supported the purpose of the bill (i.e., to promote the construction of starter homes) but opposed the bill as written, which mandated 20% of all remaining residentially zoned land be half-acre lots.
  • RB 5640, Zoning Enforcement. The bill removed the treble damages sanction for Zoning Enforcement Officer’s frivolous enforcement actions, but at the HBA’s urging, it retained some ZEO liability for such actions. The bill passed the P&D and Judiciary Committees, but when an amendment was offered on the floor of the House to add a controversial solid waste facility provision, House leaders stopped debate, effectively killing the bill.

Environment Committee

  • RB 362, Riverfront Protection. HBA strongly opposed this bill, which would have created a new regulated resource, in addition to wetlands and watercourses, consisting of 100’ of upland on both sides of all continuously flowing rivers, streams and brooks. The bill also added new criteria for denying activity in these upland areas, such as showing no adverse impact to wildlife habitat in the 200’ corridor; added a confusing burden of proof before local wetland agencies (i.e., a preponderance of the evidence) that is inexplicable in an agency decision-making process, and other requirements that demonstrated no willingness to balance environmental protection with private property rights and economic development needs. The bill passed the Environment Committee but died in the P&D Committee on a 9-10 vote on a controversial amendment that substantially changed the bill.
  • RB 5603, Enhancements to the Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Act. HBA opposed this bill that would have changed the 35 year history of the act by restating its purpose, removing the legislature’s originally intended balance between protecting wetlands and watercourses and promoting economic development and the private use of land. It also added a burden of proof as in RB 362 above and other evidentiary requirements that made no sense in a wetlands agency application process. The bill passed the Environment Committee but was not acted upon by the P&D Committee.
  • RB 136, AT Moratorium. HBA opposed this bill, which placed a 2 year moratorium on AT (or alternative on-site wastewater treatment) systems, used for developments where sewers are not available and traditional septic systems are not appropriate. The bill passed the Environment Committee but was not acted upon by the P&D Committee.
  • Public Act 08-38, Inland Wetlands Agency Reports (HB 5146) . This bill reinserts into the P&Z statutes the requirement that P&Z commissions "shall give due consideration” to inland wetland agency decisions. This requirement was changed in 2007 to different language, inadvertently wiping out a body of case law interpreting what "due consideration” means. An HBA bill, this noncontroversial, technical change was passed by the House and Senate early in the session and, importantly, became unavailable as a vehicle for amendments to bring back the riverfront or wetlands language from RB 362 or RB 5603, which died in the P&D committee (see above). This new law became effective on May 7, 2008 (when the Governor signed it).
  • Public Act 08-98, Global Warming Solutions (HB 5600) . Mandates reductions, according to a schedule, of greenhouse gas emissions and requires the DEP to conduct certain studies related to global climate change. The HBA urged changes to the building code section in the original bill to incorporate NAHB model green home guidelines. The building code section was removed entirely in the bill as adopted. The bill is effective October 1, 2008.
  • RB 434, Affordable Housing in Environmentally Sensitive Areas. The HBA opposed this bill that would have prevented affordable housing developments in "environmentally sensitive areas,” very broadly defined. This was an attempt to severely weaken 8-30g, the affordable housing appeals act. While the bill had an extensive public hearing, the committee did not schedule it for a vote.

Public Health Committee

  • RB 5900, AAC Watershed Lands. The HBA opposed this bill that would have prevented P&Z commissions from approving any development on water company watershed land or aquifer protection areas unless the Dept. of Public Health first approves the development. The bill died but the issue was included in a study to be done by the Dept of Public Health in another bill and will be brought back in 2009.

Labor Committee

  • Public Act 08- , Workers' Compensation Disclosures on Construction Sites (RB 454). The HBA opposed the original bill as written and worked with the Labor Committee and the carpenters union to craft an acceptable compromise. The bill as adopted was changed substantially to establish a new commission and advisory board to study the problem of employee misclassification by general contractors and to report back to the legislature in 2010 with recommendations to address the issue.

General Law Committee

  • RB 568, Practice of Engineering. The HBA opposed this bill, which would have changed the definition of the practice of engineering to include planning the use of land and water, and review of construction pursuant to blueprints and plans – matters that builders and remodelers do every day. The HBA negotiated language with the Dept. of Consumer Protection to meet our concerns, but bill was not taken up by the General Law committee for a vote.
  • RB 5768, Hiring Ratio in Licensed Trades. The HBA has long supported the change in the hiring ratio for licensed trades from 3:1 to 1:1 (journeyman to apprentice) and agreed to a compromise amendment to change the ratio to 2:1, giving the ability of non-union trades to hire 1 apprentice for every two journeyman. This bill was not taken up in committee, but an amendment on another bill to accomplish the 2:1 ratio passed on a 12-5 vote. When that happened, the Senate Co-Chair of the committee who opposed any change in the law, held that bill, effectively killing the issue.

Public Safety & Security Committee

  • Public Act 08-65, State Fire Prevention Code (HB 5802) . The HBA urged inclusion of a treble damages sanction for frivolous actions on local fire marshals since the bill gives them open ended citation authority to enforce any violation of the Fire Prevention Code or Fire Safety Code. The bill became controversial not so much for the bill itself but due to ongoing efforts by fire marshals to include new construction requirements in the pending Fire Prevention Code, which is a state agency regulation pending before the Dept. of Public Safety. The Fire Prevention Code, first authorized in 2007 by the legislature, is supposed to apply solely to building maintenance and operation issues. The Fire Safety Code, along with the State Building Code, applies to new construction. The bill passed but a fire marshal representative acknowledged the Fire Prevention Code would not include new construction requirements.

Insurance & Real Estate Committee

  • RB 275, Marketing Out of State Homes. The HBA supported this proposal from NAHB’s High Production Builders Council. It would have allowed builders to market out of state homes to CT residents without having to register under the interstate land sales act. The CT Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) initially opposed the bill but compromise language was worked out to satisfy their concerns. Nonetheless, the bill, which passed the Senate unanimously, was not acted upon by the House.
  • RB 274, Conveyance Tax. This bill reduced the state conveyance tax, but maintained the municipal conveyance tax at the higher level adopted several years ago as a temporary increase. The HBA supported the bill, following the lead by C.A.R. The bill was not acted upon by the Senate. Other bills that would have repealed the scheduled reduction or sunset in the temporary municipal conveyance tax increase also were not acted upon. Therefore, unless the legislature takes up the sunset repeal in a special session, the municipal conveyance tax will be reduced. However, the Democratic leadership has already announced its plans for a special session in June to take up this specific issue. [Click here and see the July 2008 Special Session update on the conveyance tax extension.]
  • RB 5526, New Home Construction Contractors. The HBA opposed this bill, which would have added the penalty of allowing new home buyers to void the contract if the builder violates any provision of the new home contractor registration act. Recognizing the harshness of this penalty for what could be minor or technical violations of the act, the bill died in committee when it was not scheduled for a vote.

Banking Committee

  • In a bill on which the HBA did not testify or work on, but monitored, Public Act 08- , Responsible Lending and Economic Security (HB 5577), adopted a number of changes in the authority of the CT Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) related to providing assistance to home owners faced with foreclosures. The bill also places restrictions on non-subprime lending. The following is a summary provided by the Partnership for Strong Communities:
    • Legislature Passes Mortgage Relief, Governor Expected to Sign
      On the last day of the session, the legislature passed the session’s major mortgage relief bill, HB 5577 - lays out new programs for assisting those in danger of losing their homes through foreclosure and regulates lending of nonprime loans. The bill does the following:
      • provides statutory authority for the CT FAMLIES Program for that is administered by the CT Housing Finance Authority (CHFA)
      • creates the Homeowner's Equity Recovery Opportunity (HERO) program that allows CHFA to purchase mortgages directly from lenders and put eligible borrowers in an affordable repayment plan
      • expands and provides funding for the Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (EMAP) at CHFA
      • allows CHFA to purchase foreclosed property for supportive and affordable housing
      • establishes a mortgage crisis job training program in cooperation with workforce development boards
      • creates a foreclosure mediation program in each judicial district
      • adds new requirements to lenders, to avoid putting borrowers in loans they're not able to afford
      • has easier eligibility requirements for borrowers, to help even those who have fallen behind on payments or have damaged credit history
      • bans mortgage brokers and real estate brokers from influencing real-estate appraisals
      • a series of requirements on non-prime loans:
        • no prepayment penalties except FHA loan
        • mandatory escrow of taxes and insurance
        • prohibits no-doc loans by requiring lenders to use tax returns, payroll receipts, etc to verify information provided by borrower
        • ability to re-pay based on fully indexed, fully amortized rate except a FHA loan
        • mandatory counseling for refinancing of government subsidized loans
        • lender cannot make and broker cannot offer to refinance a mortgage into a nonprime mortgage which does not have a tangible net benefit to the borrower
        • allows borrowers to cure defaults up to judgment within certain restrictions
        • prohibits unfair arbitration
        • prohibits lenders from raising interest rates on borrowers who have defaulted
        • any loan that is a violation of prepayment penalties, default interest rates or unfair arbitration shall be void
        • lender or broker cannot recommend that a borrower default on an existing loan in connection with a closing on a nonprime loan

(Thanks to Betty Gallo and the CT Fair Housing Center for details of requirements on non-prime loans.)

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

 

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