The Senate worked overtime to get its budget done while the House had an abbreviated schedule of activities. Your legislative team consulted with the Chairs of the House Regulatory Reform Committee in order to calendar SB 55 (Continuing Education for General Contractors) on Thursday only to have that meeting canceled when the House scheduled no votes for its Thursday session. However, this meeting has been rescheduled for Tuesday and SB 55 is the first bill on the calendar. Based on our lobbying all of the members of that committee this week, we expect a favorable vote.
As discussed in previous reports, the bill would require at least one qualifier of a building, residential or unclassified licensee to obtain 8 hours of instruction annually as a requirement for license renewal. Starting in 2021, all 8 hours can be satisfied by taking approved courses online. The bill received overwhelming support in the Senate and the same level of support is expected in the House, where the companion bill had 87 of the 120 House members either as a primary sponsor or cosponsor.
This morning the Senate passed its version of the 2019-2020 budget, HB 966 (2019 Appropriations Act). The $23.9 billion plan includes an appropriation of $10 million for the North Carolina Housing Trust Fund for 2019-2020 fiscal year. Support for this fund is always one of NCHBA’s top session priorities. The bill also contains several tax provisions important to us (e.g., reduction in the franchise tax rate and an increase in the standard tax deduction). Starting next year, the standard deduction will increase by $1,000 to $21,000 for joint married filers and the franchise tax rate will decrease from the current rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of the corporation’s tax base down to $1.29 per $1,000 for the 2020 tax year and to .96 per $1,000 for the 2021 tax year.
The budget bill now returns to the House for a vote where House members will fail to concur with the Senate changes. A conference committee will then be appointed by the leadership of both bodies to work out the differences in the two versions. Once consensus is reached, the conference report will be voted on and sent to the Governor. All indications are that Governor Cooper will veto whatever the General Assembly presents.
SB 553 (Regulatory Reform Act of 2019) was heard in the Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday. The bill contains several provisions. Of interest to NCHBA are the following:
- Amending the North Carolina Plumbing Code to include an amendment to eliminate a drinking fountain requirement for a building with maximum occupancy under 30.
- A requirement for NC DEQ to study and report on expanding existing express permitting programs, including stormwater and soil and erosion permits.
Regulatory reform has been an annual priority for the GOP majority in the General Assembly since gaining control in 2011. Each session, NCHBA has successfully sought provisions in this annual legislation. Compared to prior years, this year’s version contains fewer controversial provisions since the GOP no longer enjoys a veto-proof majority.
NCHBA members will head to Washington D.C., next week for NAHB’s Spring Leadership Conference. On Wednesday, NCHBA members and staff will visit Capitol Hill to meet individually with members of our North Carolina Congressional delegation on NAHB’s key federal priorities. Tim and Steven will immediately return to Raleigh to keep our legislative agenda on track.
Finally, it is our honor to name Senator Deanna Ballard (R-Alleghany, Ashe, Surry, Wilkes & Watauga) as our “NCHBA Legislator of the Week!” Serving her second full term, Senator Ballard has been a strong supporter of the home building industry during her service in the Senate. We thank Senator Ballard for her continued support for housing affordability and the American dream of home ownership, and we look forward to working with her in the future!