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Italy: Legislative Measures in Aid of Earthquake Victims

(Dec. 30, 2016) On December 18, 2016, new legislation aimed at providing assistance to earthquake victims and aid for the restoration of damaged property entered into effect in Italy. (Law No. 229 of December 15, 2016, Conversion into Law, with Amendments, of Decree-Law No. 189 of October 17, 2016, Concerning Urgent Interventions to Benefit the Population Affected by the Earthquake of August 24, 2016 (Law No. 229), NORMATTIVA  (in Italian; click on “Allegato” to see full text).)

Seismic Events Covered by the Law

The new legislation establishes benefits to alleviate the human and material damage caused by the earthquake that took place in central Italy on August 24, 2016.  (Law No. 229, art. 1(1).)  The legislation appoints an “Extraordinary Commissar” with broad powers to oversee overall compliance with the applicable regulations for the granting of benefits and the reconstruction efforts.  (Id. art. 1(3).)  The Commissar must inspect the current condition of the real estate affected by the seismic event and classify each place according to itsr state (destined for demolition, unusable, temporarily usable, and other categories).  (Id. art. 2(4-bis).)  The Commissar must act in coordination with regional and local authorities.  (Id. art. 2(4).)

Provisional Structures and Housing Units

To alleviate the serious lack of habitable dwellings in certain Italian regions affected by the earthquake (Lazio, Marche, Umbria, and Abruzzo), the mayors of the towns in the area must provide the national Civil Protection Department (the Department) with the information necessary to determine the area where a settlement of temporary housing will be located.  (Id. art. 4-bis(1).)  Public areas must be prioritized over private areas for the settlements.  (Id. art. 4-bis(1).)

Where settlements on private lands are planned, a government declaration of the existence of serious public need is required beforehand.  (Id. art. 4-bis(1).)  The Department must oversee the infrastructure work necessary for the installation of the settlements, including setting up related services.  (Id. art. 4-bis(2) & (4).)  These provisions do not amend or repeal the already existing legislation that allows the National Anti-Corruption Authority (ANAC, in Italian) to verify the disbursement of funds for this type of work.  (Id. art. 4-bis(5).)

Selection of Contractors and Scope of Contracts for Emergency Works

The legislation includes procedures for the selection of a contractor when only one offer is available to undertake the necessary emergency work.  (Id. art. 4-bis(6).) The law also allows for the expansion of the scope and amount of existing contracts destined to rebuild stables and barns necessary to shelter animals during the winter season in the affected territories.  (Id. art. 4-bis(8).)

Restoration of Dwellings

The law provides that in order to facilitate the re-entry of affected persons into their dwellings that have been damaged or declared unusable and that consequently need immediate repair, such persons may submit a special project plan to the authorities.  (Id. art. 8(1).)  The plans must be signed by an authorized professional attesting to the fact that the dwellings are in a condition suitable for being immediately repaired and becoming inhabitable.  (Id. art. 8(1).)  The owners of dwellings that had been affected by the earthquake that occurred in Abbruzzo in 2009, for which the owners have received government assistance and that are still under repair, are eligible to receive additional funds as determined by the Commissar.  (Id. art. 13(1).)  In the case of dwellings that were damaged and rendered unusable during the earthquakes of 1997 and 1998 and whose owners have yet to receive government assistance, the new legislation provides that the authorities must carry out a new assessment before a determination of financial aid for the repairs is made.  (Id. art. 13(4).)

Immediate Intervention on Damaged Cultural Patrimony

New urgent and immediately effective measures are included for the protection and reconstruction of historical and artistic cultural patrimony damaged by the earthquake.  (Id. art. 15-bis(1).)  The law therefore authorizes the direct hiring of qualified professionals to be paid up to €40,000 (about US$41,822) apiece to repair the damage.  (Id. art. 15-bis(1).)  Cities are authorized to perform basic intervention in order to stabilize buildings and structures to avoid further damage to cultural and landscape property.  (Id. art. 15-bis(2).)  Projects involving repair work other than that aimed at avoiding immediate collapse and that will entail a change in the location, structure, and/or appearance of a piece of cultural patrimony must be promptly communicated to the Ministry of Cultural Property and Activities and Tourism for authorization to make repairs.  (Id. art. 15-bis(2).)

Additional Repair Measures

The law mandates that within 18 months from the date of entry into effect of the new legislation, the affected regions must undertake a technical evaluation of their hospitals with an indication of the financing needed for the strengthening or repair of their structures that were damaged by the earthquake.  (Id. art. 14-bis(1).)  The law also approves urgent measures aimed at restoring the infrastructure of highways of national interest damaged by the earthquake, in order to ensure their safety and viability.  (Id. art. 15-ter(1).)

The law also has provisions designed to bring normalcy to educational institutions whose buildings were severely hit by the earthquake, covering facilities that have been declared totally or partially unusable, in areas where temporary emergency structures are currently hosting displaced students.  (Id. art. 18-bis(1).)  In particular, the law permits educational authorities to alter the minimum and maximum number of students allowed in each classroom, to re-assign academic staff to different schools, or to modify the date of conclusion of the 2016-2017 academic year.  (Id. art. 18-bis(1)(a)-(c).)

Support for Agricultural and Other Companies

Provisions on financial benefits for agricultural, zoo-technical, and meat processing companies located in the cities most affected by the earthquake are also included in the law.  (Id. art. 21(1) & (4-bis).) Companies that benefit must use the monies to acquire the necessary machinery to continue their normal productive activities.  (Id. art. 21(4-quinquies).)

Recovery of Non-Dangerous Waste

Some measures in the new legislation are directed at the recovery of non-dangerous waste created by demolition and construction activities after the earthquake.  (Id. art. 28-bis(1).)   Specifically, the law authorizes a 50% increase in the permitted amount of non-dangerous waste that may be disposed; the increase will remain in effect until December 31, 2020.  (Id. art. 28-bis(2).)

Financial Support for Workers and Banks

The law appropriates funds for the year 2016 (€124,5 million, about US$129 million) to supplement the salaries of workers whose workplaces were destroyed or seriously affected by the earthquake.  (Id. art. 45-bis(1).)  Financial benefits are also contemplated for independent workers.  (Id. art. 45-bis(4).)

Provisions for Displaced Voters

Displaced voters who were unable to cast their ballots in the constitutional referendum held on December 4, 2016, in their hometowns due to circumstances related to the earthquake are allowed to vote in future elections in the cities of their new residence.  (Id. art. 51-bis(1); Dante Figueroa, Italy: Constitutional Referendum Scheduled, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Nov. 18, 2016).)