2009 Summary of CT's Regular Legislative Session
July 14, 2009

The HBA successfully defeated almost all legislation that would have harmed housing and the building industry and obtained modest gains with some new laws. The 2009 State legislative session began January 7 and ended June 3, 2009. This is a report on the major bills on which the HBA of CT worked. This year’s "regular” session saw over 3,000 proposed new laws introduced and over 6,000 amendments filed by legislators. This session was one of the most difficult on record for the business community, and the construction and development industry in particular. We averted a disaster for the industry by defeating many of the bills noted below.

The state legislature will convene in "special” session – perhaps throughout the summer – to resolve a massive state budget deficit. The HBA will remain watchful over the process as "implementer” legislation attached to an adopted budget could also affect our industry.

Unfortunately, it is a reality of the political dynamics in Connecticut that, even in this grueling economic environment, we are forced to play a largely defensive role. It remains extremely difficult to obtain real substantive improvements in our regulatory environment and continually beat back further anti-housing and anti-development legislation. We are spending 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’s efforts in the 2009 regular session included tremendous support from seventy members who attended our annual Home Building Industry Day at the Capitol on April 8 and still others who contacted their state legislators throughout the session, or who came to the capitol and testified for or against legislation.

Many thanks go out to all members who get involved by serving on our Government Affairs Committee, helping us develop policies and positions on legislation, bringing issues to us and letting us know the problems they face, and by contacting their state senators and representatives.

We strongly urge members to get more involved politically in order to move CT forward and produce better laws and regulations for housing and the building industry. Get to know your state senators and representatives, especially while they are not in session. Teach them what it means to be in this industry in Connecticut. Do not presume they know or have formed an opinion about your business or housing – they likely have not. Your job is to educate them and if you do, they’ll make better decisions for your business. And, in the end, you should also work to get more friendly legislators elected.

If HBA members ever have an issue with laws or regulations, please let us know. Call the HBA of CT office at 860-216-5858.

New 2009 Laws

The bills noted below beginning with "Public Act 09-” were adopted by the legislature. They became law when the Governor signed them.  "Effective upon passage” means the date the Governor signs the bill.

  • Public Act 09-18, HB 5414, Disclosures by New Home Construction Contractors and Home Improvement Contractors. Effective July 1, 2009. The HBA supported this bill, which provides more effective notice to consumers and levels the playing field for all builders and remodelers.It addresses an issue where some builders set up new LLCs for each new home, properly register that LLC, and effectively deny any opportunity to consumers to investigate prior claims against the contractor. The new law requires new home construction contractors (NHCC) and home improvement contractors (HIC) to identify the names of other registered NHCCs or HICs in which the principal has been a principal in the previous five years. HBA builders and remodelers should receive an HBACT E-Alert mid-June, 2009, explaining the new disclosure requirements; Please make sure we have your correct email address by sending an email to Joanne at jhoerrner@hbact.org.
  • Public Act 09-181, HB 5254, Extending Time of Expiration of Certain Land Use Permits. Effective upon passage (July 2, 2009). Extends the five-year expiration to six years for site plan, subdivision and wetland approvals obtained from July 1, 2006, to July 1, 2009. Holders of such approvals may still request an additional discretionary extension of up to another five years (i.e., as with current law), for a total maximum of eleven years. HBA sought a three-year extension for all such approvals obtained prior to July 1, 2006, but environmental organizations pushed back (wanting approvals to expire) as did the CT Conference of Municipalities (wanting approvals to expire so they could call performance bonds).
  • Public Act 09-192, HB 6284, Model Energy Code and Green Building Standards. Effective upon passage (July 8, 2009). Fixes a 2007 law that required certain buildings to be constructed using portions of the LEED green building rating system, a law that was unworkable and conflicted with the State Building Code. This amended law requires the State Codes & Standards Committee to review specific construction portions of the LEED and Green Globes green building rating systems and NAHB's National Green Building Standard and to amend the State Building Code appropriately by July 1, 2010. The law also adds a member having expertise in energy efficiency to the State Codes & Standards Committee.
  • Public Act 09-165, HB 6466, Projects of Regional Significance and Pre-Application Reviews. Effective October 1, 2009. Allows developers of large projects (including 250 or more residential units) to request a pre-application review meeting with municipal agencies and all applicable state agencies. Such meetings will be convened by the applicable regional planning agency and mandatory attendance by state agencies is required. The HBA sought and obtained an amendment to ensure such meetings are voluntary on the part of permit applicants and they are non-binding and non-appealable.
  • Public Act 09-230, HB 6467, Smart Growth Definition & Principles. Effective upon passage (July 8, 2009). A major smart growth (SG) bill that for the first time defines SG and sets out SG principles. The bill also requires that the new principles be worked into the state plan of conservation and development, a document and map that has become increasingly important in state permitting and funding decisions. The law delays implementation to give the legislature’s Continuing Committee on the State Plan time to analyze how best to incorporate these new SG principles into the plan. The Senate amended this bill to add additional permissible SG locations for housing. Environmental groups and 1,000 Friends of CT wanted to limit new housing to only transportation and employment centers.
  • Public Act 09-19, HB 5930, Requiring State Agencies to Perform a Small Business Impact Analysis for New Regulations. Effective October 1, 2009. As the title indicates, state agencies in the future will have to attach to all new regulations a small business impact analysis, to be reviewed the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee (i.e., the last step in approving new state agency regulations).
  • Public Act 09-32, HB 5792, Requiring Efficiency Standards for Residential Lawn Sprinklers.Effective July 1, 2010. Requires new lawn sprinklers to be installed with rain censor shut off device.
  • Public Act 09-141, SB 271, Floodplain Management and Use of Mill Properties. Effective from passage (June 25, 2009). Relieves certain floodplain restrictions for redeveloping old mill properties. Original bill provided more relief, which environmental organizations and DEP opposed.
  • Public Act 09-146, SB 785, Construction Change Orders. Effective July 1, 2009. Distinguishes "change orders" from "change directives" and requires payment requisitions to include certain information about change orders and directives. The bill is applicable to commercial construction, residential construction with 5 or more units/building, and to public buildings and public works, except for DOT contracts.
  • Public Act 09-153, SB 849, Municipal Enforcement of Occupational Licensure Laws, and Defining Millwright Work. Effective July 1, 2009. Specifically authorizes municipal building officials to report violations of occupational licensure laws to the Dept. of Consumer Protection. Limits the situations in current law whereby fines collected by DCP from violators must be shared with municipalities.
  • Public Act 09-202, SB 1033, Establishing a Tax Credit for Green Buildings. VETOED by GOVERNOR RELL 7-9-09. Available to builders but does not take effect until January 1, 2012, due to the state government's budget deficit. The credit amount ranges from 5% to 11% of allowable costs, depending on what practices are followed and what green building rating level is achieved. Total amount for all credits is capped at $25 million. While the bill references the LEED green building rating system "or an equivalent rating system,” as to be determined by DEP, the floor debates in both the Senate and the House, which the HBA helped to script, reference both the Green Globes commercial building system and the National Green Building Standard for residential construction as equivalent systems.
  • Public Act 09-190, HB 5861, Municipal Applications for State Permits. Effective October 1, 2009. Recognizing the problem with state agency permitting delays, this bill provides some relief to municipal governments who must apply to state agencies for permits by requiring three state agencies (DEP, DOT/STC, and DPH) to make a determination within 60 days on the completeness of such applications. While not directly helping HBA members, it is hoped that the requirement will eventually be applied to private applicants as well.
  • Public Act 09-225, HB 6672, Adopting 2008 Amendments to the Common Interest Ownership Act. Effective July 1, 2010. While most provisions affect community associations and how they operate, the HBA will publish an article on its web site explaining the provisions of this new law affecting CIOA developers.
  • Public Act 09-229, SB 891, Modernizing Connecticut Fertilizer Law. Effective upon passage (July 1, 2009). An amendment to this law (Senate Amendment "B”) initiated by Governor Rell and introduced on the second to last day of the session by a by-partisan group of legislators, and passed by the Senate and House before we had a chance to comment, raises the town clerk recording fee from $30 to $40 for a one-year period, with most of the extra $10 to support dairy farmers. This stealth amendment was worked out by a group of environmental and farm interests with the Governor and legislative leaders without ever consulting property owners or real estate interests. Proponents claim the $7 million the higher fee will raise will save and create jobs in the dairy industry, but ignore basic economics (i.e., the $7 million is removed from the real estate industry and property owners). This new fee does not "create" a new $7 million; it merely shifts funds (and jobs) from one sector of the economy to another. ... That's what the HBA would have told legislators if we were given a chance.

Legislative Proposals That Did Not Pass

The bills below all did not survive the legislative process. The HBA testified and worked on these bills as well as many others not listed. See the HBACT’s web site for a more complete spreadsheet of all legislation that died that would have affected our industry.

Bills the HBA Opposed (there were many others in addition to this list):

  • Expand jurisdiction of local wetland commissions to further regulate natural upland vegetation, establishing a presumption of adverse impact on wetlands and watercourses by cutting upland vegetation and requiring impossible reviews by applicants of impacts throughout a watershed.
  • Change the rules of evidence used by local wetland commission, making it virtually impossible to challenge a denial of a wetland permit; also changes the supposed balance between protecting wetlands and the economic growth of the state by virtually eliminating economic growth as a consideration.
  • Add greater protection to water supply watersheds by strengthening DPH’s oversight of local land use decisions (DPH also opposed; it did not want this authority).
  • Authorize local planning and zoning commissions to adopt impact fees on development.
  • Authorize fees in-lieu-of sidewalks in subdivisions, enabling towns to use fees to build sidewalks in other places in the town (essentially, worse than an impact fee).
  • Authorize a local option, additional real estate conveyance tax of up to 1%, "charged to buyers” and to be used for local open space purchases.
  • Require smart growth considerations before DEP or DPH permits advanced treatment (AT) sewage systems – a clever way to enact a moratorium on AT systems.
  • Require adoption of the latest revision to the National Electric Code without exceptions, ignoring the current system of code review and adoption.
  • Repeal or weaken the affordable housing appeals act (i.e., known as 8-30g).
  • Require "energy efficient” subdivisions and site plans by, among other things, requiring an extensive, expensive analysis of the "embodied energy” of any existing buildings.
  • Require local and regional plans of conservation and development (POCD) to be consistent with the state’s POCD – i.e., a top down, centralized planning approach.
  • Require existing state grant programs for open space, brownfield redevelopment, historic preservation and transfer of development rights on farms to be funneled through the Face of CT Steering Committee, a one-sided statutory body of agency heads and environmental and farm advocates, who at the beginning of this session had never met.

Bills the HBA supported:

  • Restricting subdivision and site plan bonds and fees to secure the completion (performance) of development work; also required timely return of bonds once work is completed. This HBA proposed bill was not raised by the Planning & Development Committee and, therefore, did not receive a public hearing, killing the concept.
  • Streamline the permit approval process; establish expedited permit application teams among state agencies to facilitate issuance of permits for economic development. Much weakened versions of these concepts were adopted – see HB 6466 and HB 5861 above.
  • Establish in each judicial district a land use docket to expedite appeals of planning, zoning and wetlands decisions. This bill, while passed by the Planning & Development Committee and the Judiciary Committee, was not taken up for floor debate in the House because the judicial department announced near the end of the legislative session that it will implement these special dockets in each judicial district on its own.
  • Adopt a builder’s employee exemption to the real estate licensing law to allow builders’ employees to conduct normal, everyday interactions with customers without violating the law. This HBA proposal was strongly opposed by the CT Assoc. of Realtors, one of the very few issues on which CAR and the HBA are on opposite sides.

 

 

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