In football terms, halftime is approaching at the General Assembly.
With the exception of budget and spending bills, any legislation that isn’t approved by one chamber by April 30th will effectively be dead for the session. So this week and next will produce an avalanche of activity as legislators try to move bills through committees and onto the House or Senate floor in record time.
Many of the bills chasing the crossover deadline will have a big impact on the real estate industry — here’s a look at a few of the many bills we’re keeping our eyes on:
- Aesthetic Design Restrictions: For the fourth consecutive year, the General Assembly is considering legislation to clarify that local governments lack the authority to dictate how single-family homes, townhomes and duplexes should be designed. This year, SB 25, ‘Zoning/Design & Aesthetic Controls,’ has the honor of being the first taken up. After being favorably reported out of the Senate Commerce committee this week, it’s on the Senate calendar for a vote next Monday night.
- Historic Preservation Tax Credit: Despite heavy lobbying by Governor McCrory and Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz to restore a tax credit for the redevelopment or renovation of historic properties, HB 152, ‘New Historic Preservation Tax Credit,’ has been declared dead by Senate leaders, after passing the House by a wide margin in late March. No word yet from Miracle Max as to whether that means the bill is actually all dead, or just … mostly dead.
- Permitting Reform: A bill to reform state building code regulations, HB 255 would clarify what constitutes official misconduct for code officials, create a separate residential code committee within Building Code Council, require complete and timely inspections, and mandate the online posting of code interpretations by the NC Department of Insurance. It passed the House in a near-unanimous vote in mid-April, and is awaiting Senate action.
- Protest Petition Repeal: The House recently passed HB 201, ‘Zoning Changes/Citizen Input’, which eliminates a longstanding state law allowing neighbors in the immediate vicinity of a proposed development to force the applicant to secure a supermajority of affirmative votes from the city or town council for rezoning approval. The Senate will likely wait until after crossover to take it up.
- Property Insurance Reform: A total of five bills have been filed between the two chambers to reform the process by which property insurance rates are calculated and approved in North Carolina. But with one week left to go, just one has officially ‘crossed over.’ HB 151, ‘Property Insurance Rate-Making Reform’, would reform the way insurers calculate homeowner rates and require the use of in-state, historical data in modeling software. It passed the House unanimously in late March, and is awaiting action in the Senate.
- Development Bonding Reform: Another bill that passed the House this week, HB 721, ‘Subdivision Ordinance / Land Development Changes’ would allow developers to choose from three performance guarantee options, rather than letting a local government dictate which they will require. It would also require towns and cities to return that surety when the required improvements are complete, and cap the amount of the guarantee at 125% of the reasonably estimated cost of completion at the time of issue.
- Rental Registration: HB 530, ‘Local Gvmts/Inspect Bldgs & Structures’, would establish limitations on local Rental Registration and Building Inspection programs to allow inclusion of only the worst 5% of all properties with crime or disorder activities. It would prohibit the universal registration of rental properties currently required in Charlotte’s ordinance. The bill was favorably reported out of the House Local Government Committee last week and is awaiting action in the Reg Reform committee.
The next week will also likely feature more Senate debate on an economic incentives bill, as well as the possible movement of legislation to change how sales taxes are collected and distributed statewide.