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The Session is Over!

At noon today (Friday), the House adjourned to close out the 2013 Long Session of the General Assembly, after 104 legislative days were completed over a six-month period. The Senate adjourned Friday morning around 1:45 am. The past few weeks have been extremely busy for the League's Governmental Affairs team, as numerous issues facing cities were very much in the balance as the session was roaring towards the finish line -- and most of those issues came out in good shape.  Expect a "Session Wrap-Up" bulletin in the coming weeks to assist you in understanding all of what happened, but in the meantime, we thank you for your support throughout the session! We are honored to work with and support your efforts in building strong and effective cities and towns! 

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Budget With One-Year, Partial Hold Harmless Extension Signed By Governor

The General Assembly approved its final version of the State budget (SB 402 Appropriations Act of 2013) this week and sent it to the Governor, who signed it into law this afternoon. Thanks to the efforts of municipal officials and the General Assembly, the budget includes a one-year extension of the Transitional Hold Harmless payment, which expired in August 2012. The 2013 payment would be made in September, and would be calculated as in past years, but each local government would receive only one-half of the amount calculated. There will be no further extension of the Transitional Hold Harmless beyond 2013. The budget contains several other provisions affecting cities and towns, including changes to water and sewer funding and economic development support. A table comparing the final budget to the versions originally passed by the House and Senate can be found here. Contact: Karl Knapp
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Impact of Regulatory Reform Bill Dialed Back

The House gave final approval Friday morning to HB 74 Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, which ended up being the session's wide-ranging regulatory reform vehicle. Local governments would be affected by several portions of the bill, but the one of most concern was language that would limit a city's ability to enact environmental ordinances in a field regulated by state or federal governments. The League worked extensively with legislators to transform this language from its extremely problematic original form, to only applying to environment-related ordinances, to the language that was eventually passed in HB 74. That language sets up a legislative study of the issue while putting in place a de facto moratorium on these sorts of ordinances until October 1, 2014, by requiring all council members present and voting on such an ordinance to vote to approve it in order for it to be enacted. We recognize that this will likely still impact cities and towns, but it is a vast improvement over the bill's initial form.

HB 74 also still contains language that will allow owners of all permitted billboards to rebuild their signs forever, irrespective of their non-conforming status. Other parts of the bill of potential interest to cities and towns include redefining "built-upon area" as not including gravel in impervious surface calculations, a study of engineer review of technical designs, and language related to brownfields redevelopment. Contact: Erin Wynia

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Local Electronic Notice Bill Ready for Next Session

A bill to provide Guilford and Mecklenburg counties, and all of the municipalities at least partially within those counties, with the option of publishing legally required public notices on their websites rather than in paid newspaper advertisements did not receive a House vote on the session's final day. However, SB 287 Notice Publication - Certain Local Govs. was approved by the Senate and it remains eligible for the 2014 Short Session, where it will only need one vote of approval from the House to become law. The bill, which in previous forms applied to additional counties, emerged from the House Rules Committee this week applying only to Guilford County. It was amended on the House floor with language backed by the N.C. Press Association that would provide little to no savings for municipalities and was then sent to a conference committee with the Senate. The version that emerged from the conference committee, and that the Senate approved, was that applying to Guilford and Mecklenburg counties. SB 287 was on the House calendar this morning but was not voted on, putting further consideration off until next year. League members selected electronic notice authority as one of their top legislative goals for this year, due to a desire to streamline communication and save taxpayer money currently required to be spent on legal advertisements in newspapers with diminishing readership. Contact: Paul Meyer
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More Legislation Affecting Charlotte Airport Voted Into Law

In the final hours of the 2013 session, the General Assembly passed into law more legislation affecting the ownership of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, despite the objections of some members of the Mecklenburg County delegation. SB 380 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Commission was unveiled in committee on Thursday and given final approval shortly after midnight today. Because it was a local bill, it became law upon passage and did not have to first go to the Governor. SB 380 creates a Charlotte Douglas International Airport Commission that would oversee the day-to-day operations of the airport. The Commission is an agency of the City of Charlotte, and the mayor and city council are responsible for appointing 7 of the 13 members of the Commission. However, city officials did not agree to this legislation before it was passed. After last week obtaining a temporary restraining order blocking previous airport legislation from going into effect, the city may again look to the courts to challenge SB 380. For more on this contentious legislation, see this report from the Charlotte Observer. Contact: Paul Meyer
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Bill Requiring Durham to Provide Services Heads to Governor

After being repeatedly delayed, the Senate finally took up and approved a bill that would require the City of Durham to provide water and sewer services to a development outside of its borders. SB 315 Municipal Services is a statewide bill but is only in effect for 60 days after it is signed into law and is intended to affect only the 751 South development in Durham County. The bill would also annex that development into the City of Durham in 2023. The Durham City Council voted not to accept a similar agreement, prompting the legislative action. Sen. Mike Woodard, a former Durham City Councilman, was among those who spoke against the General Assembly's inserting itself into local affairs during the debate over the bill. "If you want to become the planning committee, the zoning committee, the board of adjustment for the whole state of North Carolina, vote for this," Woodard said. SB 315 will be sent to the Governor to be signed into law. Contact: Paul Meyer
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Rental Registration Out, Local Electronic Notice In Tech. Corrections Bill

The annual technical corrections bill, which makes changes to a wide variety of legislation already passed in the session, was given final approval by the House yesterday. Several provisions of HB 92 GSC Technical Corrections 2013 would impact municipalities. The original draft of the bill released this week included language portrayed as a conforming change to the statues allowing cities to conduct rental registration and inspection programs, but that language in fact would have severely restricted cities' ability to effectively enforce these programs as to multi-unit rental complexes. Thanks to calls from League members, legislators opted to amend the bill on the Senate floor to remove that language from the bill. Thanks to you for your quick response to this bill, and to Senators Fletcher Hartsell, Wesley Meredith, and Josh Stein for their support.

Another section of the bill expands the local electronic notice authority that the Towns of Apex, Cary, Garner, and Knightdale previously had. There are also several primarily technical changes to the transportation reform legislation passed earlier this session, including writing into law that the N.C. Department of Transportation will continue to try to improve its prioritization process through the use of a workgroup process that will continue to include a representative from the League. Contact: Paul Meyer

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General Assembly Honors North Carolina's All-America Cities

The House of Representatives approved a resolution on Tuesday to honor the three North Carolina communities that recently earned All-America City honors. The City of Dunn, the Town of Garner, and the City of Thomasville all were recently named as All-America cities. Each year the National Civic League recognizes ten communities for outstanding civic accomplishments, and this year three of the 10 honorees were from North Carolina. Delegations from Dunn (top, below) and Garner (bottom, below) were in the House chamber to hear the reading of HB 1021 Honor All-America Cities. Rep. David Lewis was among those speaking on the resolution, honoring the work done by the City of Dunn. "I'm very proud of my hometown," Rep. Lewis said. The League congratulates Dunn, Garner, and Thomasville for earning these prestigious honors. 

City of Dunn

The towns of Dunn (top) and Garner were recently honored at the General Assembly for being awarded All-America City honors.

Town of Garner

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Portions of Jordan Lake Rules Delayed

Certain elements of the Jordan Lake Rules will not take effect until 2016 under a bill given final approval by the Senate early this morning. SB 515 Jordan Lake Water Quality Act received House approval late Thursday night and a concurrence vote by the Senate at 1:30 a.m. today. While the original version of the bill would have eliminated the rules entirely, under this bill specific rules listed in the legislation that were to take effect this year are instead delayed for 3 years. Contact: Erin Wynia
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Tax Reform Signed Into Law

This Tuesday, Governor McCrory signed into law the final version of tax reform, HB 998 Tax Simplification and Reduction Act. Further details about the changes that may affect municipalities, as well as effective dates of those provisions, can be found here. The new law is the result of months of negotiations between the House, Senate, and the Governor. Thanks to the outreach from League members and extensive lobbying efforts, the final tax reform package provides municipalities with additional revenue overall. The success of tax reform has been one of the most critical achievements for the League during this session. The League thanks our membership for traveling to Raleigh and making phone calls to reach out to their legislators, as well as the Representatives and Senators who have worked with the League throughout the process to help protect municipal revenues. Contact: Paul Meyer

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House, Senate Agree on Hydraulic Fracturing Legislation

Both the House and Senate voted early this week in favor of a conference report on SB 76 Domestic Energy Jobs Act, which deals largely with the practice of hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina. The version approved by both chambers speeds up the rulemaking process for hydraulic fracturing, but it maintains a requirement of a legislative vote before any permits for hydraulic fracturing activates are issued. It also directs a study of how to fund local and state emergency responses to industry-related emergencies, and it does not contain a previously included provision that would have limited local taxation of the industry to only ad valorem taxes. More controversial hydraulic fracturing-related measures were attached to a bill backed by the Governor that would have allowed some functions of the N.C. Department of Commerce to operate through a public-private partnership, but that bill ultimately did not receive legislative approval this year. Contact: Erin Wynia
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Local Authority for Design-Build, P3 Financing Sent to Governor

All local governments will have the ability to use the design-build construction method and public-private partnership financing for non-transportation projects under a bill approved by the House and Senate this week. Both chambers gave final approval to HB 857 Public Contracts/Construction Methods/DB/P3 this week, sending the bill to the Governor to be signed into law. The League was one of many stakeholders who worked with bill sponsor Rep. Dean Arp on this legislation, and we thank Rep. Arp for his work on this issue. Contact: Erin Wynia
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Underground Digging Laws Overhaul Approved by House

The House unanimously voted to concur with the Senate's version of HB 476 Rewrite Underground Damage Prevention Act this week, sending it to the Governor to be signed into law. The League worked extensively with bill sponsor Rep. Mike Hager as part of the stakeholder group involved in the development of this legislation. Among other provisions, the law would require all cities and towns with underground utilities subject to the act to join the NC 811 notification center. However, it would exempt cities from the requirement to mark -- or provide a "locate" -- for all gravity-fed wastewater lines installed prior to the law's effective date, and all stormwater facilities.  The League thanks Rep. Hager for working with us on this issue. Contact: Erin Wynia
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Gun Bill Limits Local Government Regulation

The House and Senate voted in favor of HB 937 Amend Various Firearms Laws in the session's final days. The wide-ranging bill affecting various firearms statutes includes a provision preventing municipalities from prohibiting handguns on greenways and biking/walking paths. It also further clarifies the definition of "recreational facilities" where municipalities may prohibit firearms by ordinance. Read more from WRAL on the numerous other portions of the law, which do not directly impact municipal authority. The bill now heads to the Governor to be signed into law. Contact: Erin Wynia
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Thank You to NCLM Governmental Affairs Intern Elaine Woo

The League's Government Affairs Team has been fortunate to have had Elaine Woo serving with us as an intern for the final months of the 2013 General Assembly session. Elaine has provided invaluable assistance in tracking legislation, monitoring committees, and observing House and Senate sessions. After next week Elaine will be leaving us to return to Winston-Salem and begin her third year of law school at Wake Forest, so we want to take this opportunity to thank her for all that she did for North Carolina's cities and towns this summer. We will miss having her as part of our team. Thank you, Elaine!

NCLM Governmental Affairs Intern Elaine Woo