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 July 17 

This week's development

Electronic notice of development fee increases

The House has passed a committee substitute for SB 698 – City/County/Sanitary District Fees/Internet that would require local governments that maintain their own websites to publish notice of new or increased development-related fees on the websites. The notice must appear at least seven days before the first meeting at which the new or increased fee will be discussed, and the governing board must provide a public comment period during the meeting when the fee is considered. If the fee is a part of the annual budget, no special electronic notice is required. The League was successful in obtaining a number of changes to this bill to limit its scope and make it more reasonable. The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.

Fireworks safety regulation

The Senate State and Local Government Committee approved a bill to respond to safety concerns after a fatal July 4 fireworks explosion on the Outer Banks. SB 563 would require those operating a public fireworks display to meet minimum training standards of the state fire marshal's office, get a two-year permit, and have proof of insurance of at least $500,000. The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee.

Development moratorium bill not heard

SB 117 – Clarifying Development Moratoria Authority prohibits a city or county from adopting a temporary moratorium on development for the purpose of developing and adopting new or amended ordinances. The House Commerce Committee had scheduled it for this week but ran out of time before the bill was heard. The League opposes the bill as currently written. Planning statutes were revised a few years ago to set sufficient standards for moratoria, which are an important tool for addressing local growth and development issues. Please continue to let members of the House Commerce Committee know of your need to have development moratoria as a tool.

Smaller cities' urban area revitalization projects

Both the Senate and House have now passed SB 618 – Urban Area Revitalization Made Uniform . The legislation permits all municipalities to participate in urban area revitalization projects under the municipal service district statute; previously, only cities with populations greater than 150,000 met the threshold.

Compromise version of conservation easements bill

The House passed a committee substitute for SB 600 – Condemnation of Conservation Easements this week. The original bill w ould have created new standards and procedures for condemnation of properties encumbered by conservation easements that could have effectively eliminated local government ability to condemn such properties for road or utility projects. The League successfully negotiated numerous provisions, including an exemption for municipal utility projects (electric, gas, water, sewer, storm water systems and greenway trails). For road projects, if the easement holder contests the condemnation, the court is to consider whether a prudent and feasible alternative exists and, if it does, must dismiss the action and award costs and expenses (but not attorneys' fees) to the easement holder. The bill now returns to the Senate for concurrence.

Changes in quasi-judicial appeals process

The House has passed a committee substitute for SB 44 - Appeals of Quasi-Judicial Land Use Decisions . The legislation codifies in statute the procedures for appeals of quasi-judicial land use decisions, such as variances and special use permits. The League was successful in getting several changes, including language to require the court to consider the interpretation of the decision-making body. The bill must go back to the Senate for concurrence.

Development permit extensions

The House passed a committee substitute for SB 831 – Extend Certain Development Approvals this week and it will return to the Senate for concurrence. The legislation suspends the running of the period of a development approval during the period beginning January 1, 2008 and ending December 31, 2010. The bill was introduced as a response to the current recession. The League worked to secure several changes to provide a similar extension for certain state water and wastewater permits granted to local governments and to address situations in which water or sewer capacity is at issue.

Special separation allowance

The Senate passed a committee substitute for HB 816 – Clarify Local Special Separation Allowance that makes several changes requested by the League. The bill clarifies that payment of a law enforcement officer's special separation allowance ceases upon the d eath of the officer; the last day of the month in which the officer attains 62 years of age; or the first day of reemployment by a local government employer in any capacity. It allows a local government to employ retired officers in a public safety position, in a capacity not requiring participation in the Local Governmental Employees' Retirement System, without causing payments to cease. The bill also now clarifies its applicability so that retroactive payments will not be required and pending litigation will not be affected. It must return to the House for concurrence.

Energy improvement loans to citizens

HB 1389 – Finance Energy Improvements with Assessments passed the House this week. The legislation is based on a concept that has been used in California. It would authorize a city or county to loan funds to property owners for the upfront costs of installing renewable energy sources or energy efficiency improvements, with repayment through a contractual assessment. Stimulus funds may be available, and this is intended to provide sufficient authority for local governments to establish such programs.

Wind energy

The Senate is considering legislation to establish a state permitting system for wind turbines. SB 1068 – Permitting of Wind Energy Facilities sets forth critieria for such facilities, but preserves the ability of a city or county to plan for and regulate siting in accordance with land-use regulations. Maintaining land use authority for wind energy projects is part of the League's advocacy agenda for this session.

Minimum housing orders

SB 661 – Allocate Water Cost/Landlord Tenant Changes was recently signed by the Governor and becomes effective October 1, 2009. It makes a number of changes to landlord/tenant laws but has one provision directly affecting orders that can be issued under a local minimum housing ordinance. Existing law provides the option of ordering that certain properties be repaired or vacated and closed. Under SB 661, the order may only require that the property be vacated and closed if continued occupancy during the time allowed for repair will present a significant threat of bodily harm. We understand the intent of this provision is to prevent retaliatory evictions by landlords when a tenant complains of the need for repairs.

 

Annexation bill to be heard in House Appropriations on Tuesday!
Request removal of referendum provision; Plan to attend Committee Mtg.

Tuesday, July 21, at 8:30 a.m. the Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider HB 524 – Annexation – Omnibus Changes.Please continue your contacts with members of this committee to request removal of the referendum provision in the bill and plan to attend the meeting in Room 643 Legislative Office Building . We have made significant compromises in this bill and, while we still have specific concerns, we stand behind our good faith efforts to support a reasonable bill that has the legislative support to pass this session. You have shown great leadership in your support for annexation reform and the sweeping changes to the annexation statutes proposed in HB 524 as recommended by the House Judiciary II Committee. Unfortunately, the referendum amendment added in House Finance would lead to the effective elimination of annexation as a tool to manage growth and to provide services in an orderly and logical manner in urban areas. Annexation opponents are requesting a number of changes to HB 524, including a vote just of the people being annexed and giving county boards of commissioners control over city-initiated annexations.

Actions needed: Please contact members of the House Appropriations Committee immediately to ask them to remove the referendum amendment from HB 524. 

Looking to 2010 . . . 

Municipal Legislative Policy Proposals

 

  Please Submit Your Ideas Now

The League Conference will be held October 25-27, 2009 in Greenville.  The annual business meeting will be held on October 27, and in that meeting the membership will consider any changes to the advocacy agenda or core principles for 2010.  In accordance with the League Bylaws, proposals from the membership must be submitted to the League at least 90 days in advance of the annual meeting.

Policy proposals should be sent to the League office as soon as possible , but no later than July 29, 2009.  This is your policy process — please give this thoughtful consideration and participate so the League speaks for you.  These proposals will be forwarded to one of the League legislative action committees.  Committee recommendations will be considered by the League Board of Directors at its August 18 meeting.  Copies of the advocacy agenda and core principles recommended by the Board will be sent to all member municipalities at least 60 days before the annual meeting.

Proposals that have not been approved by the Board can be considered by the policy committees later, but will not be considered at the annual meeting, except upon the favorable vote of 3/4 of the member municipalities present and voting, pursuant to the League Bylaws.  Following the annual meeting, we will inform the membership, legislators and other interested individuals and organizations about the  approved advocacy agenda and core principles.

Discuss Importance of Privilege License Tax with Legislators

The Senate and House continue to disagree on how to raise the approximately $1 billion needed to balance the state budget. This week, the General Assembly passed another continuing resolution to keep state government running until July 31, funded at 84 percent of last year's budget. We continue to work with House and Senate budget leaders to prevent the elimination of the local privilege license tax, which raises approximately $50 million for municipalities statewide. Last week the League was asked to provide the budget conferees with a proposal for reforming the tax, rather than eliminating it. This proposal, which was sent to cities and towns earlier this week, would eliminate the caps and exemptions for specific types of businesses, limit the taxation of businesses without a location within the city, and place a cap on the total tax bill for a single business. For a copy of the proposal, go to www.nclm.org/lachomepage.htm. Please contact House and Senate budget conferees to discuss how important the privilege tax is as a revenue source to your city or town and to support reform of the tax rather than its elimination. For a list of conferee co-chairs, visit the July 2 bulletin, which includes this list and contact information. Any legislator's office may be reached by calling 919-733-4111 and asking for the legislator by name.

 

Seek amendment to Open Government Act
HB 1134 – Open Government Act requires awarding of attorneys' fees to anyone who “substantially prevails” in a public records case against a city, county or the state. The government unit can avoid paying the attorneys' fees only if the court finds that it acted in reasonable reliance on a court order, a published appellate opinion, or a written opinion or letter of the Attorney General. It 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.
Status: Senate Judiciary I Committee. (Passed House)
Actions needed: Please talk to your Senators and request additional language to prevent attorneys' fees from being awarded if a local government acts on the advice of its attorney.