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
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:
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]:
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:
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:
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.