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League Members Continue Press as Bill Activity Heats Up

League members continued to press legislators on statewide issues of significance for cities and towns this week. Participating in District Days!, Triad-area League members who made in-person visits with legislative leadership this week received assurances that the tax reform proposal would not significantly affect municipal revenues. These in-person visits, coordinated by the League, have a tangible effect on policy outcomes and will become more important in the coming weeks as legislative committees ramp up their activity to pass bills. As you will read below, bills to address many of the League's priority goals, as well as other bills of concern to cities and towns, have already received at least one hearing. Please make plans to join your colleagues in Raleigh for one of the remaining District Days! and make a difference in the outcome of these bills.
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Bill Limiting Rental Registration Programs Advances

A bill to limit cities' ability to conduct rental registration and inspection programs was given a favorable report by the House Government Committee yesterday. HB 773 Local Gov'ts/Bldgs/Structures/Inspections (W. Brawley) would eliminate landlord registrations and the fees paid by landlords to support the programs, in addition to reducing the reach of program enforcement mechanisms. The League has attempted to work with bill sponsors on the legislation and joined city officials in addressing the committee yesterday and sharing concerns about the legislation. Cities across the state use these programs to ensure the adequacy of their housing stock and protect neighboring property values and the quality of life for their citizens. Rep. Bill Brawley, who presented the bill to the committee, expressed a willingness to work on certain aspects of the bill. The League will be reaching out to him in an effort to address city concerns before the bill is considered by the full House. Contact: Paul Meyer
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Electronic Notice Bill Approved By Senate

The Senate gave approval to SB 287 Notice Publication by Some Local Govs (Wade) this week and sent the bill to the House for consideration. SB 287 would give some city and county governments the authority to publish legally required notices online on their own websites, and through other means, instead of requiring them to purchase advertisements in a newspaper. SB 287 is a local bill that applies to only 10 named counties and most of the municipalities within those counties. Gaining electronic notice authority for cities and towns is one of the advocacy goals approved by the League membership for the 2013-14 biennium. HB 755 DENR Electronic Notice (McGrady), which would give similar authority to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, was discussed but not voted on in the House Environment Committee after representatives of the N.C. Press Association raised objections to the bill. Contact: Chris Nida
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Wide-Ranging Regulatory Reform Bill Heads To Senate Floor

The Senate Commerce Committee gave a favorable report to SB 612 Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 (Brown) yesterday, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. League staffers worked with bill sponsors on a new version of the bill that was distributed in committee. A provision preventing municipalities from enacting regulations stricter than what is required by State or federal law has been narrowed to apply only to environmental areas regulated by certain agencies and commissions. The League remains concerned about the unintended impacts such a blanket provision could have on its member municipalities. The League thanks the bill sponsors -- Sens. Harry Brown, Brent Jackson, and Andrew Brock -- for adding regulatory reforms requested by cities to the bill, including extending the lease time for renewable energy facilities and allowing an official other than the municipal clerk to license going out of business sales. The League will continue working with the sponsors as the bill is considered by the Senate next week. Contact: Erin Wynia
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Design Controls Bill Pulled From Senate Calendar

One day after HB 150 Zoning/Design & Aesthetic Controls (Dollar) was approved by a Senate committee, the bill was withdrawn from the full Senate calendar and re-assigned to the Senate Rules Committee. The League spoke in opposition to the bill in committee, as cities believe that passage of the bill would eliminate their ability to protect the character of existing neighborhoods and hurt both economic development efforts and surrounding property values. HB 150 would prevent cities from imposing aesthetic controls over 1- and 2-family dwellings in all zoning districts. The bill has already passed the House. The League will keep you updated on where the bill goes from here. Contact: Chris Nida
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Amended Asheville Water Bill Given Initial Senate Approval

Senators took up a statewide bill that would regionalize the City of Asheville's water system this week, approving it in committee before voting in favor of it on the Senate floor. Before it was given full Senate approval, HB 488 Regionalization of Public Utilities (Moffitt) was amended to require that all municipalities offer a resolution of support prior to the creation of any future metropolitan water and sewerage districts. The amendment was offered in part to address concerns raised by members of the Wake County delegation that this statewide bill could apply to their jurisdictions in the future. The Senate will take one more vote on the bill to give it final approval, at which point -- because it was amended -- it will return to the House for a concurrence vote before it is sent to the Governor for his signature into law. Contact: Chris Nida  
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Gun Bill Allows Firearms on Greenways

House members advanced an omnibus gun proposal, HB 937 Amend Various Firearm Laws (Schaffer), Wednesday. Among the bill's many provisions is language that allows holders of concealed carry permits to carry their handguns on greenways. The League spoke against this provision at the committee hearing, pointing out that under the proposed language, the many residential property owners who granted easements to cities for greenway use would have no opportunity to prohibit greenway users from carrying concealed handguns on their private property. Committee discussion, however, focused on other provisions of the bill. The bill also clarifies the definition of "recreational facilities," areas in which cities and towns may prohibit firearms. Contact: Erin Wynia

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League Regulatory Reform Goal Advances in Both Chambers

State agencies proposing to repeal an existing rule would no longer need to prepare a fiscal note on the repeal under the terms of HB 892 No Fiscal Note for Rule Repeal (Catlin), which was approved unanimously by the House this week. The bill would address a regulatory goal chosen by League members to streamline the process for repealing unnecessary, unduly burdensome, or inconsistent rules. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. In addition, a Senate committee voted yesterday to advance the same language in an omnibus regulatory reform bill, SB 612 Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 (Brown). Contact: Erin Wynia

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Nuisance Abatement Bill Delayed in Senate

This week the Senate Judiciary 1 Committee considered SB 264 Abate Nuisances/Drug Sales From Stores (Brown), which would revise the nuisance abatement statutes to overturn a court ruling that limited claims to cases where the nuisance activity is the sole purpose of the property. This bill would accomplish one of the League's Advocacy Goals and League staff spoke in support of the bill. Several Senators expressed concerns about how the bill's provisions for forfeiture of the nuisance property would limit the rights of persons with third party interests in the property. The bill sponsor, Sen. Harry Brown, agreed to have the bill referred to a subcommittee that would address those concerns and report back to the full committee. Contact: Paul Meyer
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Requirement to Record Closed Session Meetings Given Thumbs Up

At the end of a long agenda Thursday, members of the House Government Committee approved HB 870 Record Closed Sessions of Public Bodies (Dixon). The bill would require local governing bodies to make sound, or video + sound, recordings of all closed session meetings. If the session becomes eligible for public inspection, the local government must retain the recording for two years. The recordings would exist as supplements to the "general account" of the meeting already required to be kept. The bill now moves to the House Judiciary A Subcommittee for further examination. Contact: Erin Wynia

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Weaverville ETJ Removal Advances to House Floor Vote

After final committee approval this week, the full House stands poised to vote on HB 531 Extraterritorial Jurisdiction/Zoning-Weaverville and Buncombe/Correction (Ramsey) Tuesday. The bill, not requested by the Town, would remove the Town's extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) powers as of July 1, 2013. The existing rules would remain in place until Buncombe County adopted regulations for the area or 120 days, whichever was sooner. The League opposes this bill and other efforts to eliminate ETJ and is advocating for reasonable reforms to the current system. Read more about the issue here. Contact: Paul Meyer

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Specialized Land Use Bills Receive Sign-offs

In a push to move legislation to the floor before the May 16 "crossover" date, legislative committees took up and signed off on several proposals to address specialized urban land uses this week. Of interest to cities and towns, these committees approved two League-supported bills, HB 625 Zoning/Health Care Structure (Moffitt) and HB 433 (SB 389) Land Use Surrounding Military Installations (Bell). The health care structure bill sets up a new statutory structure to govern zoning of temporary family health care structures. The new statute would require cities and counties to permit these structures as accessory uses, under certain conditions. This bill will next be taken up by the House Finance Committee. The second bill addresses specific land uses around military installations and would prohibit local governments from permitting the construction of any building or structure more than 200 feet high on land near a military installation without prior approval from the State Construction Office. Having already passed the House, this bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary I Committee for further discussion. Contact: Erin Wynia

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House Votes Down Compromise Boards & Commissions Overhaul, Again

In a surprise move yesterday, the House unanimously voted down a compromise proposal for SB 10 Government Reorganization and Efficiency Act (Apodaca). The vote came as both legislative chambers considered a conference committee report on the bill; the Senate voted yesterday to support the compromise measure. The bill would overhaul several high-profile state boards and commissions, including one of top interest to municipalities, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission. The latest disagreement on this bill between the two chambers led Senate leaders to say they would not consider further negotiation on this bill, instead preferring to move some of the language through other existing bills. Contact: Erin Wynia

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County Legislation Would Augment Biosolid Land Application Laws

The House Environment Committee voted in favor of HB 458 Omnibus County Legislation (McElraft) yesterday. The bill contains a number of provisions, one of which would require the state to give boards of county commissioners notice and opportunity to comment if land application of biosolids has been proposed in their county. Biosolids are a byproduct of wastewater treatment and are used as a highly effective fertilizer for crops. The League is not opposed to this specific proposal but would oppose any legislation giving local governments such as counties the ability to prevent the land application of biosolids. League members prioritized limiting regulation in that area to the state and federal governments as a regulatory advocacy goal. The omnibus bill will next have a hearing in the House Transportation Committee. Contact: Erin Wynia

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State Fiscal Outlook Improving

The General Assembly's economist, Dr. Barry Boardman, briefed the House and Senate Finance Committees this week on the State's fiscal outlook. Dr. Boardman noted that the state's economy is on solid footing on most fronts and should continue along the path of modest yet steady growth. He indicated that State revenue collections were $110 million above target for FY 12-13, and that the surplus could be larger at the end of the year as the result of taxpayers pushing capital gains into tax year 2012 to avoid federal tax increases in 2013. While income tax collections are higher than expected, his revised sales tax growth rate is lower than the budgeted level. The revised growth rate is in line with the League's projected local sales tax growth rate of 2.8 percent for FY 12-13.  Contact: Karl Knapp
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FEDERAL: Vote on Internet Sales Tax Bill Forthcoming

The U.S. Senate voted to end debate on the Marketplace Fairness Act Thursday, meaning that a final vote on the legislation that would allow states to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases is likely to come May 6, following a Senate recess. Both Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Kay Hagan previously voted in support of the Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 743), but only Sen. Hagan voted in favor of the procedural motion that would end debate and allow for a vote on the legislation. In the coming week please continue to contact both Sens. Burr and Hagan, thank them for their previous votes in support of the Marketplace Fairness Act, and ask them to vote in favor of the legislation when it is before them for a final vote. The Marketplace Fairness Act would bring additional sales tax revenue to state governments and municipalities that they are currently owed but unable to collect. Contact: Chris Nida
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Calling Eastern NC Towns ... Will You Be Here May 1?

District Days! is rolling along and we need you to RSVP your plans to attend. Get involved and keep the momentum humming. Check the schedule below and RSVP for your District Days! Groups should arrive at the Albert Coates Local Government Center on the League's campus, then after a short briefing on current issues, you will proceed to the legislature. We'll make the appointments for you! It's as easy as 1, 2, 3.

District Days! Schedule

  • Wednesday, May 1 - NCLM Districts 1, 2 and 3
  • Wednesday, May 15 - NCLM Districts 4 and 5
  • Tuesday, May 21 - NCLM Districts 6 and 7
  • Tuesday, June 4 - NCLM Districts 10, 11 and 12

Contact: Jennifer Webb; 919.715.1726