public policy advocacy for the professional engineer                                      June 12, 2013

Legislative Update

As legislators signal their intention to adjourn later this month, the next few weeks promise to be a whirlwind of activity with tax reform, the budget, and many controversial pieces of legislation yet to be resolved.

Here’s an update on a few of the bills we’re actively engaged in lobbying or providing feedback on:

HB 857 –  Public Contracts/Construction Methods/DB/P3 - Sponsored by Representative Dean Arp, PE – This bill, promoted by the Architects and Engineers in cooperation with the Carolinas AGC, would enable government entities to use Design Build, Design Build Bridging and Public Private Partnerships as approved contracting methods, eliminating the need for the many local bills that are filed each year requesting such authorization.  The selection process is based on qualifications and experience and Quality Based Selection is integrated into all three of these delivery and financing options.  Additionally, the bill eliminates the local government option to exempt themselves from the Quality Based Selection requirements for design services if the project exceeds $50,000. 

This bill has passed the House and received a favorable report in Senate Government yesterday.  It is scheduled to be heard in Senate Finance next week before going to the Senate floor for a final vote in that Chamber. 

HB 739 – Certificate of Merit for Architects and Engineers – Sponsored by Representative Rob Bryan, an attorney from Charlotte, this bill would require that before a negligence claim against a licensed professional is filed, a professional licensed in the same practice area as the defendant must review the facts and certify that the claim is meritorious and should be adjudicated.  While the differences with Carolinas AGC were worked out in the compromise bill that was introduced,  attorney legislators in the House see this as our industry wanting immunity from liability – which is a total misunderstanding of our intent.  However, they are steadfast in their position and difficult to convince otherwise. 

The bill had its first hearing in House Judiciary A, hurriedly, right before the crossover deadline.  Because there were objections from the attorneys on the committee, the bill was withdrawn from consideration and, therefore, did not make the crossover deadline.  The only path forward for this bill at this time is for a fee to be added so that it can be reconsidered in another House Judiciary committee OR if one of the bill co-sponsors can include it in another bill that has already passed the House and amend it in the Senate. 

HB 301 – Clarifying Changes, Engineer and Surveyor Laws – Sponsored by Representatives Arp, Catlin, Millis and Hager, this legislation would make clarifying changes necessary to allow the NC Board of Examiners for Engineers and Land Surveyors to administer computer based examinations and would waive the examination for GIS practitioners with certain experience until July 1, 2014. PENC supports the bill.

This bill has been ratified and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

HB  628 - Protect/Promote Locally Sourced Building Materials – Sponsored by Representative Presnell this legislation began with the stated intent of protecting North Carolina timber producers by requiring that sustainable building standards not disadvantage or forbid the use of building materials produced in this State.  The language of the bill went on to broaden the scope of the stated intent by, in effect, disallowing the entire use of the LEED Green Building rating system for state construction projects.  Many stakeholders, including ASHRAE, USGBC, Concrete, Steel, Architects and Engineers disagreed with the effect of the elimination of LEED in state buildings and requested amendments to preserve the LEED rating system.  The legislation was rewritten Tuesday in the Senate Agriculture and Environment committee to permit such projects if they cut long-term energy costs and permit North Carolina building materials in construction. LEED does not consider most North Carolina lumber to be sustainably farmed, and that, according to the timber industries, puts the state's timber companies at a disadvantage. Under an amendment offered by Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, the bill would allow state and local government agencies to pursue LEED certification if buildings could use such ratings systems that do not "put North Carolina materials at a disadvantage.  PENC continues to have some concerns with the amendment as it relates to the energy efficiency “payback” period. 

This bill will be heard on the Senate floor today and, if passed will be sent back to the House for concurrence. 

SB 76 - Domestic Energy Jobs Act – (i.e. the “Fracking Bill”).  When this Senate bill was first introduced early in the session, it raised some considerable concerns within the environmental community and with legislators on the House side where the initial bill allowing shale gas exploration was only narrowly approved a year ago.   The bill passed by the Senate would not only have accelerated the issuing of permits for hydraulic fracturing drilling as early as March 2015 it would also have lifted the ban on using deep well injections for industrial waste disposal.

The House version of the bill passed earlier this week  agreed with the set date of March 2015 for North Carolina to begin issuing permits for shale gas mining, or "fracking." The House's version of Senate Bill 76, however, is significantly more cautious than the Senate's. The Senate's original "fast-track" version would have allowed fracking to begin on March 1, 2015, without legislative approval. The House version allows the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to issue permits on that date but says lawmakers must approve the state's regulatory framework before those permits would be considered valid. "It was very important for us to put that in there, because in 2011, we promised this House floor it would come back before this body," said Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee. The House version also would not allow the injection of fracking waste fluid into the ground in North Carolina and would allow DENR to regulate and fine land agents who use misleading or unethical practices to convince property owners to sign leases.  PENC supports the House version of this bill. 

SB 76 now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.  If the Senate does not concur, a conference committee will be appointed to work out the differences.

HB 480 - Environmental Permitting Reform – Sponsored by Representative Millis, PE – This bill would allow for fast track permitting of stormwater management systems for applications submitted by a qualified professional in compliance with minimum design criteria.  The minimum design criteria will be developed by a technical working group to include NCDENR, industry experts, engineers, environmental consultants, the University system and others.  The bill is supported by PENC.  

The bill has been ratified and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. 

SB 328 - Solid Waste Management Reform Act of 2013 – Sponsored by Senators Wade, Brown and Jackson.

This significant piece of legislation was a “surprise” as the bill that was made public prior to the committee meeting looked nothing like the committee substitute that was the subject of the discussion.  The most significant items in the bill would:   1) extend the duration of permits for sanitary landfills and transfer stations to thirty years (from 5 to 10 now) 2) modify DENR’s authority to issue and transfer permits for solid waste management facilities; 3) modify certain requirements governing sanitary landfills including conduct of environmental impacts studies, applicable buffers, cleaning and inspection of leachate collection lines, alternative daily cover, and require landfill operators to study certain issues 4) modify requirements for financial responsibility applicable to applicants 5) specify that cleanup of onsite leachate is not required when conducting risk-based remediation of landfills 6) limit the frequency with which DENR may change groundwater standards; 7) require that collection and transfer of solid waste require containers be leak resistant 8) amend rules governing control of leachate, etc.

The current bill was given a favorable report in the Senate Agriculture/Environment and Natural Resources committee with the caveat that NCDENR and other stakeholders would continue to work with the bill sponsor over issues and concerns before being heard in Senate Finance.    At this time, PENC has not taken a position on the bill pending forthcoming information from the solid waste management division in NCDENR and the outcome of the stakeholders review.

HB 817 - Strategic Transportation Investments – Sponsored by Representatives Brawley, Iler, Torbett and Sheperd.  The Governor’s signature transportation bill continues to make its way through the Senate and was given a favorable report just this morning in Senate Appropriations.  One of the concerns over funding for bicycle/pedestrian projects was fixed in this version of the bill by grandfathering stand alone  projects if they are in the STIP by Oct 2013 for FY 13, 14 or 15.

There are still differences between the House and Senate versions of this bill that will have to be worked out in a conference committee. 



Part 2 – Legislative Update will appear on Friday and will include updates on:

SB 612 - Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 – Sponsored by Senators Brown, Brock and Jackson 

HB 120 - Building Codes/Local Consistency – sponsored by Representatives Hager, Brawley, Arp, Cotham

HB 201 – Reinstate 2009 Energy Conservation Codes – Sponsored by Representative Torbett

SB 9 - Utilities/Design/Survey Locator Services – Sponsored by Senator Meredith

Underground Damage Prevention Act
Interbasin Transfers
Jordan Lake Rules
Terminal Groins
Board and Commission Appointments
Budget Updates
and Tax Reform

 


If there are questions or you need additional information, please feel free to contact me at bbailey@penc.org or phone 919-834-1144, ext. 1.


Sincerely,

Betsy Bailey
Professional Engineers of North Carolina


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