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Bulletin: July 12, 2010 


General Assembly Ends Shortest Session Since 1996

The General Assembly adjourned at 5:33 a.m. Saturday morning after a marathon week culminating in a 19-hour floor session.  In the end, the most widely-discussed bills passed included a $19 billion budget; a 29-page ethics reform bill; economic incentives for to-be-named companies and the film industry; Alcoholic Beverage Control reform; rules for corporations and unions on reporting money spent for political advertising; a sweepstakes café ban;  and requirements for taking DNA samples for certain arrests. 

Overall, it was an excellent session for North Carolina cities and towns, and our citizens.  We owe our deepest appreciation to the many legislators who stepped forward to protect and advance our communities.  A detailed 2010 Short Session Summary will be published within the next 2 weeks. 

ACTION:  Please take time to CALL your delegation members this week and thank them for their work this session.  If you would like specific information on any particular legislator’s efforts on behalf of cities and towns, please send an email to Kelli Kukura, Director of Governmental Affairs.  

Click here to access names and phone numbers for your legislators

Alcohol Beverage Control Reform Passes

The House concurred on Thursday with the Senate committee substitute for HB 1717—Modernization of the State ABC System, bringing to a successful close many months of work to reach agreement among all parties.  The League staff was very involved in this effort and now supports the legislation – it successfully addresses ethics reform and salary concerns, provides both local governments and the State ABC Commission clarified authority, and leaves local government revenues intact. 

The bill also addresses a local issue, providing Salisbury, Kannapolis and Rowan County an equal number of seats on the local ABC board.  Unfortunately, the legislation does not address needs for more local government input into ABC permitting of local establishments and local law enforcement support of ABC officers.  However, the ABC Commission has agreed to oversee a study of these issues by key stakeholders.  We expect that study to begin in September.  

A special thanks to the many Police Chiefs and municipal leaders assisting the League over the last several months.

End in Sight for Sweepstakes Cafés

The House concurred with the Senate committee substitute on Wednesday for HB 80—Ban Electronic Sweepstakes, which bans the use of electronic machines and devices used for sweepstakes, effective December 1, 2010.  The bill has been ratified and sent to the governor.  The League worked with legislative leaders to ensure passage of the legislation. 

Click here to read the League press release sent this week, as well as additional information on the League’s position.

Ethics Bill Passes; Includes Some Changes for Local Governments

HB 961—Gov’t Ethics and Campaign Reform Act of 2010 was ratified late in the session, with certain provisions impacting municipalities.  The bill now requires local government employees whose “principal duties, in practice or as set forth in the individual’s job description, include lobbying” to register with and be regulated by the Secretary of State’s office as “local government liaison personnel.”  The bill also requires cities to make public certain additional aspects of personnel records, including the date and general description of promotions with the particular authority, and the date and type of dismissal, suspension, or demotion, as well as the reasons.

Permit Extensions are Extended; Cities and Towns Extend Appreciation to Speaker Hackney

For the second year in a row, the permit extensions bill was the last bill to be voted on by the General Assembly – at approximately 4:45 in the morning.  After a long behind-the-scenes discussion to try to reach agreement, HB 683 was brought forward.  It provides an additional year of extension for qualifying permits, while providing an opt-out local option for local governments, as well as authority to terminate the extension of a development approval if the holder of an extended permit fails to meet certain conditions. 

NC cities and towns extend significant thanks to Speaker of the House Joe Hackney for persistent help for local communities that face critical environmental problems, safety threats, and nuisance conditions at job sites due to permit extension issues.  His personal involvement was extremely helpful to our communities.   

Fix Made to Ensure Public Incentives Don’t Automatically Trigger Environmental Review

League staff worked with other stakeholders to ensure SB 778 (and an addition in HB 1099) passed in the final hours of session Saturday morning.  The bills correct the problem created by a recent court decision that held that the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) applies to any economic development projects in North Carolina that receive local or state incentives.  Mandatory SEPA review would have been a significant deterrent to economic development since this review could make a company wait as long as two years before starting construction on a project.

Municipal Broadband May be Studied

While the session concluded with no action on SB 1209 or any municipal broadband bill containing a moratorium, studies of municipal broadband are called for in two places:  the State budget, which includes a Broadband Task Force to study primarily public-private partnerships in meeting last mile requirements; and SB 900—Studies Act of 2010.  Section 7.5(a) of the Studies Act enables a study of local government owned and operated communication systems by the Revenue Laws Study Commission, with an advisory committee to consist of communication company representatives, municipal representatives, and members of the General Assembly. 

Our sincere thanks to the large coalition of cities and towns, associations, and citizens who ensured municipal broadband was not harmed or stopped this session.

E-911 Use of Funds Expanded

HB 1691 was ratified by the General Assembly and, if signed into law, will expand the use of 911 funds for primary Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), and authorize 50 percent of existing fund balances to be spent on any public safety need.  The bill also requires the 911 Board to take into account inter-local funding agreements between primary public safety answering points (PSAPs) and existing secondary 911 call centers in establishing a new funding formula, establishes a legislative study of the funding of secondary PSAPs, and further clarifies that 911 funds can be shared with and spent by secondary PSAPs for authorized uses. 

Last-Minute Changes to Omnibus Environmental Bill

HB 1766—Amend Environmental Laws 2010, an omnibus bill that amends various environmental and natural resource laws, passed the General Assembly and is headed to the Governor for her signature.

The three main provisions that affect municipalities include changes to the notice requirement for cities when they are raising fees or creating new fees, a requirement for cities to develop a recycling program for florescent light bulbs and other devices that contain mercury in any building that receives state funding, and a clarification that stipulates that the separate irrigation meter requirement from the drought bill of 2008 applies to lots platted and recorded after July 1, 2009.

League staff worked to modify these provisions to ensure they were not overly broad or difficult to comply with.

Water Bills Pass General Assembly

Three water bills are headed to the Governor for her signature: the new HB 1746—Water Infrastructure Information Needs, which creates a task force to consider a statewide water database; HB 1744—Modify Water Funding Priorities, which gives funding priority points for water supply projects, regionalization, and asset management plans; and HB 1743—Improve River Basin Modeling, which directs the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to develop hydrological models for each river basin in N.C.

League staff worked hard to ensure that all three of these bills strengthen water policy in this state and do not adversely affect local water systems.  HB 1765—Amend WQ/IBT Laws, which passed after being debated and ultimately agreed upon in conference committee early Saturday morning, shifts costs for notice and public hearings related to environmental documents and Environmental Management Commission (EMC) rulings for Interbasin Transfers (IBTs) from the state (EMC) to the applicant (local water systems). League staff was unable to get a provision inserted that would eliminate the costly newspaper ad requirements for certain IBT hearings, due to significant negative reaction from legislators about need for extensive notice.

Local Energy Financing Clarifications In Place

League staff worked to clarify the authority cities received last year through the enactment of HB 1389—Revolving Loan Fund for Energy Improvements to implement Revolving Loan Funds, which are designed to finance energy efficiency projects.  Some of the changes League staff members were successful in acquiring include authority for cities to use multiple sources of money to fund these programs and expansion of the types of financing programs they are authorized to offer.  These changes are in Section 4(c) of HB 1829—Renewable Energy Incentives, which has been ratified and signed by the governor.

E-Recycle Bill Signed by Governor

SB 887—Amend Electronics Recycling Law, which establishes consumer electronic equipment recycling programs for consumers and also establishes a fund for local governments to use in providing e-recycling programs, has been signed into law by the governor.  Now a municipality can receive funding from N.C. DENR if its county Solid Waste Plan details a municipality’s intention to provide an e-recycling program (or if the city develops its own Solid Waste Plan).

Local Governments Soon Able to Use Electronic Payments

HB 666—Electronic Payments by Local Governments was ratified last week.  The legislation allows local governments to pay bills, invoices or salaries by electronic means, including electronic funds transfer.

General Assembly Requires Disclosure of Company/Union Political Ad Cost

The General Assembly passed HB 748—Citizens United Response last week, which requires more reporting on independent expenditures by groups that run ads or print mailers in support of or in opposition to a candidate.  The legislation is a response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision about corporate political involvement.  The high court ruled corporations and unions can use operating funds to support or oppose a candidate.

Upcoming Events

Detailed 2010 Short Session Summary On Its Way

We will be providing a detailed summary in the next few weeks of all legislation affecting NC cities and towns.  We will follow up with a conference call for members, where you can have your specific questions answered.  Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to send your questions to League LINC or contact a member of your League Government Affairs team.  

Annual Conference Goes to Winston-Salem in October

The League’s 2010 Annual Conference will be held in Winston Salem on Oct. 24-26. Mark your calendars and plan to attend!  Click here for more information on the Annual Conference.

Where will you be January 20?  Setting Plans for the Future of NC!

January 20, 2011, will be our inaugural Municipal Advocacy Goals Day in Raleigh.  Members will have the opportunity to consider, debate and determine the NCLM Advocacy Agenda for the 2011-2012 session.

The League has changed its legislative policy process to provide more opportunity for input from the membership.  The new process will culminate on January 20, 2011, with a Municipal Advocacy Goals Day where the membership will debate and approve the League’s Advocacy Agenda and Core Principles.  Right now, please provide your input about the issues that the League should address during the 2011-12 legislative session and the proposals for changes to legislation. 

Proposals can be sent by elected officials and staff of member municipalities.  Policy proposals should be sent  as soon as possible to League LINC with "Policy Proposal" in the subject line no later than August 31, 2010. 

This is your policy process—please give this thoughtful consideration and participate so that the League speaks for you

S. Ellis Hankins                 Kelli H. Kukura
Executive Director             Director of Governmental Affairs