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 May 1 

This week's developments

Jordan Lake rules heard

HB 239 – 'Disapprove Jordan Lake Rules' was heard in House Environment this week and a vote is expected on a compromise bill in that committee next Tuesday. The committee substitute will revise some portions of the rules adopted by the Environmental Management Commission for nutrient management in Jordan Lake watershed. The EMC rules raised serious concerns in several areas, particularly unprecedented requirements for expensive retrofits on existing development. This is important even if your community is not covered by the rules, since the regulations adopted for Jordan Lake are likely to have future implications as a template for existing development requirements in other parts of the state. The proposed committee substitute for HB 239 takes a phased-in approach to existing development requirements and is more reasonable, but we still have concerns about cost/benefit. We recognize that cities and towns will need to implement nutrient reduction measures and are not contesting many other costly aspects of the rules, such as wastewater treatment plant upgrades and measures related to new development, but hope that common sense will prevail on the existing development piece. Our thanks to the bill sponsors, Reps. Lucy Allen, Pryor Gibson and Alice Bordsen, for undertaking the difficult task of finding a reasonable middle ground. While it does not address all of our issues, HB 239 is a good start in the right direction.

Trying to undo a unanimous vote

SB 996 (HB 1434) – Repeal Combined MV Registration/Tax System proposes to reverse a  unanimous vote by both the House and Senate in 2005 to require that motor vehicle property taxes be paid when the vehicle registration fee is paid. The new system will result in collection of an estimated $80 million annually for cities and counties from owners who now are not paying vehicle property taxes. Since the bill passed in 2005, the General Assembly has delayed implementation, and bills have been introduced to try to repeal the measure. The League opposes SB 996/HB 1434 and strongly supports requiring motor vehicle taxes to be paid when the registration fee is paid. The League is working with the bill sponsors to reach a satisfactory outcome.

Developer street responsibility bill moves

SB 761 – Street Construction/Developer Responsibility was approved by the Senate today and will move to the House.  The bill alters the authority of local governments to require developers to make necessary transportation infrastructure improvements to combat traffic impacts of the development, by limiting the financial obligation of an individual developer to the amount necessary to serve projected traffic generated by the proposed development only – likely a partial payment on the needed infrastructure. The League has serious concerns that the bill may result in inadequate transportation infrastructure investments being made, and sponsor Sen. Harry Brown has agreed to hold his bill as these issues are worked through.

Pay cuts for state employees

Gov. Beverly Perdue announced that state employees' and teachers' annual salaries would be cut by one-half of one percent (taken from May and June checks) and, in return, employees will receive 10 hours of unpaid leave, to be taken before Dec. 31, 2009. Perdue took the measures to balance the 2008-09 budget after lower than expected revenue collections after the April 15 income tax deadline. The furloughs will save an estimated $65 million. She also announced that she expects to use $300 million from the state's rainy day fund and $400 million from federal economic stimulus funds to balance this year's budget. Still looming is the gap between expected revenues and anticipated expenditures for next year.

Heard in the legislative halls

We thank citizens from Hickory, Goldsboro, Cary and Rocky Mount who came to Raleigh this week to voice their support for fairness in annexation. Their experiences and comments made a very strong case for reasonable annexation policy. We appreciate their time and support.

 

Federal Stimulus Spotlight

Federal Energy programs hotline

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened a hotline to assist local governments with stimulus-related energy efficiency questions. The hotline, called the Rapid Deployment Energy Efficiency Toolkit Help Line (RDEE), was developed by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy. Call (866) 602-7333 or email RDEE@icfi.com and receive a response within one business day.
The hotline can help you plan and implement energy efficiency programs, both non-residential and residential. Topics could include ENERGY STAR, efficient heating and cooling, energy audits, and benchmarking and performance.

Hagan Stimulus Forum

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan will hold a stimulus forum in Durham Monday, May 4. Sen. Hagan and her staff will provide information for small businesses, minority- and female-owned businesses, and non-profits on how they can better prepare themselves and their businesses to stay informed and compete for stimulus dollars in North Carolina. The forum begins at 10:00 a.m. and is at N.C. Central University's Mary N. Townes Science Complex, Concord Street, Room 1221. Charles Archer, NCLM Associate Director, will speak as a panelist.

Get updated stimulus information

The UNC-CH School of Government has established a listserv for elected and appointed officials to share federal stimulus information. To register for the listserv, please visit http://www.sog.unc.edu/listservs.html ...

 

Regulatory Update

Swine flu response

The N.C. Division of Emergency Management has initiated preparations for an emergency response to swine flu. The State received 25 percent of its federal allocation of flu supplies on Thursday, April 30. In partnership with the N.C. Division of Public Health and the N.C. State Highway Patrol, the Division then distributed supplies to the State's 86 emergency distribution points. Supplies include medicine such as Tamiflu and face masks…

 

Action Items

Contact your legislators in the next few days about these issues ...

Oppose HB 1252/SB 1004, "Deny Broadband to N.C. Communities" bill
What the bill would do: Set significant and unfair requirements that would prohibit cities and towns from providing needed high-speed Internet and other communication services to their residents, businesses, educational and other institutions. Despite some changes to this legislation, it still would make it extremely difficult for cities and towns to receive federal stimulus funds for broadband projects because they remain subject to overly burdensome rate setting, accounting and financial restrictions which would make the broadband systems unsustainable.
Sponsors: Reps. Harrell, Jones, Avila, Tillis
Status: House Public Utilities Committee
Actions Needed : Contact members of the House Public Utilities Committee to ask them to oppose this bill. Members include the following: Chair, Rep. Coates; Vice Chairs, Reps. Brubaker, Cole, Faison, Tucker; Members, Reps. K. Alexander, Blackwell, Bryant, Carney, Earle, Goforth, Grady, Gulley, Harrison, Holliman, Howard, Johnson, Lucas, McComas, Moore, Neumann.

 

Support HB 727/SB 472 — Annexation Changes – House Judiciary II begins discussion
What the bills would do:  Enact 20 changes to address legitimate concerns of citizens while retaining fairness of annexation for in-town residents and annexation as tool for managing growth. 
Sponsors: Reps. Love, Starnes, Allen, K. Alexander; Sens. Rand, Malone
StatusHouse annexation bills, including HB 727, are in House Judiciary II Committee.  Senate annexation bills, including SB 472, are in Senate Finance Committee.
Actions Needed:   Contact House Speaker Joe Hackney (919-733-3451) and Rep. Hugh Holliman (919-715-0873), as well as members of the House Judiciary II Committee to ask them to support HB 727.  Explain why a vote by annexed residents is not right for North Carolina. 

 

Seek Changes to HB 1134 – Open Government Act
What it would do: Require awarding of attorneys' fees to anyone who “substantially prevails” in a public records case against a city, town, county or the state. Also creates an Open Government Unit in the Attorney General's Office to serve as a mediator in resolving public records and open meetings disputes.
Sponsors : Reps. Ross, Wainwright, Wilkins, Dickson
Action needed : The League would like to see language added to the bill that would prevent attorneys' fees from being awarded if the city acted on the advice of its attorney.  The bill was approved by the House Judiciary I Committee, and moves to the House Finance Committee for consideration. 

 

Oppose HB 768 / SB 839; HB 1367 – Modernization of the ABC System
What the bills would do: Make significant changes to the state's ABC system, as recommended by the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee, including allowing only one local ABC board in each county, requiring consolidation of certain assets and operations; allowing the ABC Commission to merge local boards into one county board if consolidation has not taken place by July 1, 2011; and allowing ABC Commission to merge local ABC boards into regional ABC boards if the change would “best serve the needs of citizens, increase profitability and enhance revenues to affected local government.”
Sponsors: Rep. Crawford (HB768)/Sen. Albertson (SB839); Reps. Lewis, Gibson (HB1367)
Status: House Committee on Alcohol Beverage Control
Action needed: Ask your representatives to oppose.  Sample resolution on issue available on request – contact JWebb@nclm.org .  League is working with all appropriate parties and expects a satisfactory resolution to be reached.

 

Oppose HB 843 – Workers' Comp / Medical Diagnostic Testing
What the bill would do: Keep employers from stipulating which health care providers and diagnostic service centers would be used for diagnostic testing and analysis when an employee has a workers' comp claim. The employee's attending physician would be the authority to designate both provider and diagnostic center.
Sponsor: Rep. Jackson
Status: House Committee on Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Action needed: Please contact members of this committee to ask them to oppose this bill. Employers need to retain the ability to designate both health care providers and diagnostic service centers to be used in workers' comp cases to ensure quality care and cost control.

 

Bill Summaries