TOP 10 NCHBA LEGISLATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN THE 2020 SESSION

or development agreements. This section expired on September 28, 2020, however, as a result of NCHBA urging, a provision in HB 1105 reextended the duration of development approvals for an additional 120 days beyond the expiration date of the original development approval. For any development approval “current and valid” at any point during the period beginning September 2, 2020, and ending 30 days after the Governor’s executive Order declaring an emergency is rescinded. Any development approval which was extended as a result of the earlier law and still valid as of September 2 should be eligible for this additional extension for 120 more days.

• Good Funds Settlement Act Revision allows a settlement agent in a residential real estate transaction to disburse closing funds prior to recording the deed or deed of trust in the register of deeds office upon the written consent of all parties. This authority is limited to instances where there is a declared state of emergency and the register of deeds office is closed to the public. This section expires August 1, 2020, but was extended until March 1, 2021.

• Allow Licensed Soil Scientists to Evaluate, Inspect and Approve On-Site Wastewater System Projects During the Coronavirus Emergency. Allows licensed soil scientist to prepare signed and sealed soil and site evaluations, specifications, plans and reports for site layout, construction, operation and maintenance of a wastewater system without needing any further certification. Likewise, the soil scientist would be able to conduct all necessary inspections including a final inspection and report. While this section expired on August 1, 2020, a provision in HB 1105 was added, at NCHBA’s urging, which again allows licensed soil scientists to perform all of the same duties allowed under the expired provision. This new authority became effective on September 4, 2020, and expires 90 days after the Governor’s Executive Order declaring an emergency is rescinded.

• Directs State Agencies to Exercise Regulatory Flexibility During the Coronavirus Emergency. Allows agencies to delay the collection of fines, renewal dates or other certifications if deemed advisable. Authority granted by this section expired on August 1, 2020, but HB 1105 reauthorized this authority retroactive to August 1 and extended it until March 31, 2021, or when the Governor’s executive order declaring an emergency is rescinded, whichever is earlier.

• Provides Time-Limited Civil Liability Immunity to “Essential Businesses” for injuries or death resulting from customers or employees contracting COVID-19 at the business. Immunity does not apply if the harm is caused by gross negligence, reckless misconduct or intentional infliction of harm. This section applies to claims filed on or after March 27, 2020, and ends when the Governor declares an end to the state of emergency.

• Protected Employer Interests in Unemployment Compensation System. An earlier version of SB 704 would have increased benefit amounts and changed the formula for computing compensation to the detriment of employers. This would have more quickly reduced the trust fund balance and caused an earlier trigger of a surcharge tax on employers. The final version did not contain this provision.

4. HB 308 (Regulatory Reform Act of 2020); Session Law 2020-74

Since the current GOP majority took control of the General Assembly, an annual regulatory reform bill has always been on the agenda. This year is no exception to the rule. HB 308 is an omnibus bill which contains several provisions of interest to NCHBA. Included is one that would clarify a NCHBA-inspired law passed several years ago which allows architects and engineers to inspect a component or element the construction of buildings. The clarification states that the engineer’s or architects seal may only be required by a local jurisdiction if it is otherwise required by the North Carolina State Building Code.

Another provision supported by NCHBA would allow the North Carolina On-site Wastewater Contractors and Inspectors Board to purchase and hold real property and to authorize a fee to defray costs for its authorization of “on-site wastewater evaluators” (licensed soil scientists).

A prior version of this bill included a provision which would have exempted local government entities (e. g., school boards) from paying system capacity fees. Exempting these entities from paying these fees would have increased the amount of fees paid by builders and developers. NCHBA worked with the provision’s sponsor to remove this provision which the sponsor graciously agreed to do.

Key Legislators: Representatives Mark Brody (R-Union) and Dennis Riddell (R-Alamance)

(More LEGISLATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS on page 10)