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 May 15 

This week's developments – Deluge of bills on crossover deadline

The General Assembly's crossover deadline – the date by which all non-finance, non-budget bills must pass either the House or the Senate – resulted in action on hundreds of bills this week. Below are a few highlights.

Budget update

With the crossover deadline behind it, the House will now begin the difficult work of developing its version of the State budget. Lower than expected revenue figures mean that the House must pare around $1.5 billion from the budget passed by the Senate last month. Speaker Hackney told attendees at the League's Town Hall Day last week that the House does not intend to raise revenues in order to close the budget gap. House appropriations subcommittee chairs were provided with budget targets this week that would require dramatic cuts in spending. The House leadership intends to have its version of the budget completed by the first week of June. Because of the significant differences that will necessarily exist between the House and Senate versions of the budget, the process of developing a House-Senate budget agreement could be lengthy and may not be completed until after July 1.

Transfer of state roads removed from bill

The House Transportation Committee this week approved a committee substitute for HB 881 – Transportation Corridor Mapping Changes that removed from the bill provisions that would have resulted in transfer of state roads to cities and towns for care and maintenance. We thank all those who worked to achieve these changes, including members of the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition. Remaining to be decided is how Powell Bill funds will be distributed. HB 881, as originally written, would have divided Powell Bill allocations into two payments – one in December and one in June – to improve the state's cash flow. We continue to work with legislators and NC DOT officials to determine if a reasonable compromise can be reached that will aid the state's situation while assuring timely and complete distribution of the funds. If you have suggestions, please contact Paul Meyer on the League staff. HB 881 has been re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

Local Government Tort Claims Act fails to crossover; discussions likely to continue

The Senate Judiciary I Committee discussed but did not vote on an improved version of SB 1026 – Local Government Tort Claims Act , which would change how negligence claims against local governments are handled. The committee substitute is an improvement, but the bill is still detrimental to municipalities. If discussions are renewed, we will continue to work with the bill's sponsor, Sen. Tony Rand, and interested parties to develop legislation that meets the needs of cities and towns.

Local Option Tort Claims Act passes Senate

SB 859 – Tort Claims Act/ Local Gov. Opt-In, allowing cities with a population of more than 500,000 (Charlotte) to choose to operate under the state's Tort Claims Act, passed the Senate. City would give up governmental immunity in exchange for a cap on claims under certain circumstances.

House passes comparative fault bill

The House passed HB 813 -- Apportionment of Tort Liability that would move North Carolina from a state where negligence claims are settled based on “contributory negligence” to one where claims are settled based on “comparative fault.” When a claim is settled based on contributory negligence, a party can be denied a settlement if he or she had any degree of negligence (example: auto accident where injured was not wearing safety belt). With comparative fault, the claim is settled based on the relative amount of fault for each party. Such a change could increase liability insurance rates for individuals and businesses.

Revised Jordan Lake rules pass House

The House passed a revised version of HB 239 – Restore Water Quality in Jordan Reservoir . This version represents a compromise reached among affected cities and towns, environmental interest groups, and state regulators. The House-passed version allows additional time for necessary wastewater treatment plant upgrades. It phases in existing development requirements, but recognizes that measures must be reasonable and cost-effective. It precludes the Environmental Management Commission from requiring some measures, such as acquisition of private property, that would be problematic for local governments. Congratulations to Reps. Lucy Allen, Pryor Gibson and Alice Bordsen for successfully negotiating among disparate interests. The bill is now eligible for further consideration by the Senate.

Smoking banned in restaurants and bars; local authority restored

The General Assembly this week enacted HB 2 - Prohibit Smoking in Public and Work Places, which will prohibit smoking in most restaurants and bars. It also removes limitations on local government authority, allowing local governments to adopt smoking prohibitions or regulations for their own buildings, grounds and vehicles, as well as for “public places” as defined in the bill. There are certain exceptions where local ordinances could not apply, such as private residences, designated smoking guest rooms in hotels, cigar bars, and private clubs.

Bill on condemnation of conservation easements passes Senate

The Senate has passed SB 600 – Condemnation of Conservation Easements , which establishes a new procedure and standards for condemnation of properties on which conservation easements exist. The bill is now in the House Judiciary I Committee. The bill was improved considerably on the Senate side; however, the League still opposes the creation of separate standards and procedures for this class of property as unnecessary.

Developments on other land-use related legislation

SB 117 – Clarifying Development Moratoria Authority has passed the Senate and is now before House Commerce. The League opposes this bill, which would prohibit a city or county from adopting a temporary moratorium on development while new or amended development ordinances are adopted . . . SB 447 – No Monetary Exaction for Development remains in the Senate Finance Committee. This bill would prohibit a city or county from imposing a tax, fee or other monetary contribution for development that is not specifically authorized by law. The League opposes . . . SB 761 Street Construction/Developer Responsibility has passed the Senate and been referred to the House Transportation Committee. It would limit the financial responsibility of developers for street/highway construction to the amount necessary to serve the project population to be served by the development. Our thanks to Sen. Harry Brown for pledging to work with us in reforming the bill on the House side; a working group to develop necessary amendments is being formed. SB 831 – Extend Permits Regarding Land Development has passed the Senate. This bill adds an additional six months before local land development permits expire, in light of current economic conditions. Companion bill HB 1490 passed the House. The League obtained an amendment that similarly extends state water and wastewater permits to local governments, such as those from the NC DENR. Thanks to Sen. Dan Clodfelter and Rep. Ty Harrell for including this provision.

Requirement for recording closed sessions does not advance

The House Local Government II Committee heard, but did not vote on HB 1263 – Keep Recordings of Closed Sessions that would have required cities with population of more than 50,000 to keep audio or videotapes of closed sessions. The League opposed the legislation. The bill did not meet the crossover deadline.

Recuse from voting bill held in committee

The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted to hold SB 730 – Local Gov't Officials Recuse from Voting in committee. The bill would have required a municipal or county official to recuse him- or herself from a vote on an issue involving an individual who had made a campaign contribution to that official of $50 or more. The bill failed to meet the crossover deadline.

Electronic notices now a local bill

HB 193 – Electronic Notice of Public Hearings now just applies to the Town of Clayton. Originally, the bill would have allowed cities and towns to provide public hearing notices on the Internet rather than publish ads in newspapers. The League supported this broader version but the legislation ran into opposition from the Press Association and was amended to apply to a small number of cities and towns and then only to Clayton.

Clarifications to special separation allowance

Both House and Senate passed bills to clarify the law concerning the application and administration of the special separation allowance for law enforcement officers: HB 816 and SB 986 – Clarify Local Special Separation Allowance. The League was able to eliminate provisions requiring retroactive payments to officers due to previous interpretation of the laws, but we are still seeking some fine-tuning of the bills. Thanks to Sen. Floyd McKissick and Rep. Tricia Cotham for their assistance.

Notice of increases in development fees

The Senate passed SB 698 – City/County/Sanitary District Fees/Internet, requiring cities, counties and sanitary districts that maintain websites to post notices of increases in development fees at least seven days before the first regular meeting where the increase will be discussed. The League obtained amendments to the bill that reduced the proposed requirements, but the electronic notice requirement remains. We appreciate sponsor Sen. Julia Boseman for allowing us to work on the revision.

Marrying mayors

SB 992 – Authorize Mayors to Solemnize Marriage has passed the Senate and crossed over to the House. The bill allows mayors to perform marriage ceremonies if authorized by ordinance to do so. Sponsor Sen. Don Davis is the former mayor of Snow Hill.

Restrictions on debt collection practices

HB 1330 – Utilities/Collectors/Debt Collections places restrictions on local governments and other public entities that operate utilities concerning debt collection practices that result in one person being responsible for the debt of another. The League has obtained amendments to clarify the scope of this legislation. Our thanks to sponsor Rep. Angela Bryant for her willingness to work with us on the changes.

 

Federal Stimulus Spotlight

Water/sewer program deadlines

Water and sewer program applicants whose projects appeared on the State of North Carolina's Intended Use Plan(IUP) and did not receive funding in the first round of stimulus funding awards have until June 3, 2009 to submit their full applications to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Two programs received stimulus funding, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. In February, both programs solicited projects to be listed on the IUP. Only projects listed on the State IUP are eligible for funding, and only after applicants submit a full application to DENR.

Governor's stimulus workshop

Governor Beverly Perdue has announced the third in a series of six Economic Recovery Workshops for Monday, May 18 in Kinston. Attendees will have an opportunity to hear state agency representatives explain the stimulus funding process. N.C. Office of Economic Recovery and Investment head Dempsey Benton will lead the workshop. Monday's workshop will begin at 10:00 a.m. in Lenoir Community College's Waller Auditorium …

Energy efficiency resources

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced several resources for local governments applying for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program. Currently, cities with a population above 35,000 are preparing applications in advance of a June 25, 2009 deadline. Other cities will have an opportunity to apply to the State of North Carolina later this year.

DOE has established a new website featuring a new online Solution Center that houses best practices and information resources for each eligible activity under the program here. DOE will also offer a series of two webcasts beginning Friday, May 15, 2009. The first webcast will take place Friday, May 15, 2009 from 1:30-3:00 p.m. and will contain an overview of the program, sample strategies, and presentations from local governments regarding their preliminary EECBG planning. The second webcast will be Wednesday, May 20, 2009 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. and will focus on the EECBG application process. To register for either of these webcasts, visit here. DOE will repeat these two webcasts weekly as necessary…

Get updated stimulus information

The UNC-Chapel Hill 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...

Please visit http://www.nclm.org/stimulus.htm for updated information.

 

Regulatory Update

Water Shortage Response Plan webinars and workshop

The League has partnered with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources (DWR) to offer training and assistance for communities in preparing their Water Shortage Response Plans (WSRP). These plans are required of all local water supply systems and are a result of last year's drought legislation.

Even if you have already submitted a WSRP to DWR, the League urges you to participate in one of the training opportunities. DWR has not completed its review of all plans, and if a plan is disapproved, the repercussions are stiff. In times of drought, a local water supply system with a disapproved plan must follow strict state default rules for water use. There is still time to amend and re-submit a WSRP if necessary.

The training calendar includes two webinars: (1) Wednesday, May 27 from 10:00-12:00 p.m., and (2) Wednesday, June 3 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Webinar participants will receive PowerPoint slides as an email attachment prior to the workshop. The other workshop will be an in-person workshop on Tuesday, June 2 from 10:00-3:00 p.m. at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant, 8500 Battlebridge Road, Raleigh. To register for any of the training opportunities, email League@nclm.org. Put “WSRP registration” in the subject line and include your name, system name, and date of the workshop.

Greenhouse gas emission reporting vote postponed

The Environmental Management Commission (EMC) has voted to postpone consideration of a statewide greenhouse gas emission reporting requirement. The proposal would require all Title V-permitted facilities to report their greenhouse gas emissions as a component of their state reporting. In voting to postpone consideration of this new reporting until after the conclusion of the 2009 session of the N.C. General Assembly, EMC members cited concern that pending legislation in both the state legislature and Congress could supplant any proposed EMC rule-making…

 

Action Items

Contact your legislators in the next few days about these issues

Support HB 727 — Annexation Changes – Critical time on this issue
Update: Please make an extra effort to contact your legislators and Judiciary II Committee members in the next three to four days concerning HB 727.
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
Status: House 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 members of the House Judiciary II Committee to ask them to support HB 727. Judiciary II members include: Chair Blue 919.733.5752 Dan.Blue@ncleg.net; VC Rep. Glazier 919.733.5601 Rick.Glazier@ncleg.net; VC Rep. Love 919.715.3026 Jimmy.Love@ncleg.net; VC Rep. Weiss 919.715.3010 Jennifer.Weiss@ncleg.net; Reps.: Blackwell 919.733.5805 Curtis.Blackwell@ncleg.net; Bordsen 919.733.5820 Alice.Bordsen@ncleg.net; Burr 919.733.5908 Justin.Burr@ncleg.net; Crawford 919.733.5824 Jim.Crawford@ncleg.net; Folwell 919.733.5787 Dale.Folwell@ncleg.net; Hurley 919.733.5865 Pat.Hurley@ncleg.net; Jackson 919.733.5974 Darren.Jackson@ncleg.net; Johnson 919.733.5861 Linda.Johnson@ncleg.net; Jones 919.733.5825 Earl.Jones@ncleg.net; Moore 919.733.4838 Tim.Moore@ncleg.net; Parmon 919.733.5829 Earline.Parmon@ncleg.net; Rhyne 919.733.5782 Johnathan.Rhyne@ncleg.net; and Spear 919.715.3029 Tim.Spear@ncleg.net

 

Bill Summaries