Skip to Main Content

LeagueLINC Bulletin: September 4, 2014 -- End of Session Bulletin

^ Back to Top

More Budget Bluster Leading Up to the Fourth

With the Fourth of July holiday nearly upon us and a shortened work week, this week's LeagueLINC Bulletin comes to you a day early. A legislative week that saw one half of the General Assembly mostly shut down its committees and abbreviated floor calendars also meant less news. Early in the week, lawmakers folded their arms and continued to hurl barbs at each other over competing House and Senate budget proposals. By mid-week, though, the two sides held a very public airing of their differences, in a crowded committee room. They resolved one of the biggest budget snags: how much to spend on Medicaid. Still unresolved was teacher pay, but the movement appeared to indicate significant progress in budget negotiations. It may also mean that adjournment of the legislative session is not far away. In fact, after the Senate shut down its committees this week, House Speaker Thom Tillis indicated that his chamber would follow suit in the coming week and that the remainder of the session would be about resolving differences among competing versions of the budget bill and other legislation.

League staff continues to monitor the budget negotiations and their effect on a range of issues important to cities and towns, including historic rehabilitation tax credits, film tax credits, and various grant programs. With those negotiations reaching a critical juncture, the time to contact your legislators for a final push on any of these issues is now. (Edenton Mayor Roland Vaughan made another strong case for the historic preservation tax credits here.) Far away from Raleigh, a tropical storm that threatened the eastern part of the state began grabbing legislators' attention, and by early in the day on Thursday, many were headed back home. On this Fourth of July, we would again like to thank all of you for all that you do to keep your cities strong and responsive to the residents you serve. Stay safe, and happy Independence Day! Contact: Scott Mooneyham

^ Back to Top

House Coal Ash Bill Closely Tracks Senate Version

The House approved a comprehensive coal ash regulation bill today that closely tracked the version passed by the Senate last month. Importantly for municipalities, the House version improved a provision that dealt with groundwater compliance boundaries. Clarification became necessary after a March court decision upended previous state agency interpretations of the law, and the House provision responded to the precedent set by that ruling. Municipalities are regulated by the same section of law at issue in the court case, particularly in the practice of land application of biosolids. If left unaddressed by the legislature, this court decision could force cities that have long operated Class B biosolids disposal programs -- those first permitted before December 30, 1983 -- to undertake expensive "immediate" actions to eliminate the sources of any discharges that contributed to a violation of the state's groundwater quality standards. The League thanks Reps. Ruth Samuelson and Chuck McGrady for recognizing the negative implications of this court ruling for all regulated parties, and for speaking in favor of the revised provision during House committee debate this week. In addition to the groundwater issue, both the House and Senate versions of this bill contained a provision that reduced the reporting time for wastewater spill notifications, a measure that would apply to municipal facilities as well as industrial facilities such as coal ash ponds. More explanation of these provisions and their effects on cities and towns can be found in this June 2014 EcoLINC article. Contact: Erin Wynia
^ Back to Top

EPA Approves State's Plan to Regulate Nutrients Statewide

With this letter, EPA approved North Carolina’s Nutrient Criteria Development Plan (NCDP) Friday. The NCDP is a roadmap for state regulators to use when developing nutrient management strategies such as the Jordan Lake Rules or Neuse Rules. By including directives to develop statewide standards instead of site-specific standards for water bodies, the final approved version differed significantly from previous versions produced by the State with stakeholder input. However, the final NCDP contained an important clarification suggested by the League that will allow state environmental regulators to have more flexibility in meeting the mandates in the Plan. Because most regulatory costs of addressing nutrient impairment in the state's waters falls to municipalities -- which assume a primary responsibility for implementing the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act -- the League membership made nutrient regulation its top regulatory advocacy goal. The State created a new email listserv for interested parties; sign up to receive updates on the stakeholder process. The League will remain active in the nutrient criteria development process as it moves forward. Contact: Sarah Collins
^ Back to Top

Cuts Loom for Federal Transportation Money

The U.S. Department of Transportation has warned state departments of transportation that, absent action by Congress and facing an impending shortfall, it will soon begin changing how it allocates money from the federal Highway Trust Fund. A letter from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, dated July 1, states that the federal agency will be forced to limit payments and stop "same-day" payments to the states from the Highway Trust Fund beginning Aug. 1. Payments would instead be made on a bi-monthly basis, with each state allocated a proportional share based on the available money, according to the former Charlotte mayor. Foxx said steps also may be taken to limit payments from the federal Mass Transit Account if the shortfall continues into the fall. 

Leslie Wollack, program director with the National League of Cities, writes that the letter follows an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office that the Highway Trust Fund requires an additional $6.6 billion and the Mass Transit Account another $1.5 billion in order to meet obligations through Dec. 31. Wollack wrote that the Senate Finance Committee met last week without reaching an agreement on a proposed fix. Leadership from the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committee were expected to meet to attempt a short-term fix through the end of the year. A federal 18.4 cent gasoline tax and other fuel taxes generate revenue for the fund, but in recent years those revenue streams have not kept pace with inflation and other increases in eligible project costs. Contact: Chris Nida

^ Back to Top

Submit your Legislative Proposals Today!

We are now accepting proposals for legislative and regulatory goals that the League should pursue during the 2015-16 biennium, which can be submitted here. These proposals are a key part of determining the Municipal Advocacy Goals for the upcoming legislative sessions. Proposals may be submitted by elected officials and staff of member municipalities, and each proposal should indicate whether the municipality's governing body has voted to approve the submission. Goals are due no later than August 31. The League's policy development process will be finalized by the members at the Advocacy Goals Conference on December 11 in Raleigh. Contact: Cara Bridges
^ Back to Top

Political Signs Provision Dropped From Bill

SB 105 Political Signs/Add Towns to SHP was modified in the House Government Committee on Monday to remove language that would have allowed municipalities to enforce their political sign ordinances on all roads within their corporate limits. Although the League supported the bill's original language, we encouraged the removal of the political signs section of the bill after it became clear that it would become host to several amendments that could be harmful to muncipalities. The bill's section to authorize the towns of Matthews and Elizabethtown to join the State Health Plan was not modified and remained in the final version of the bill that passed on the House floor on Wednesday. The legislation has now been sent back to the Senate for concurrence. The League is already working with legislators to pursue passage of the political sign regulation during the 2015 legislative long session. Previous League coverage can be viewed here. Contact: Whitney Christensen
^ Back to Top

Law Enforcement/DA Privacy Bill Converted to Study

A bill that would have required cities and counties to develop a process for removing the personal information of certain law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judicial officers from local government websites was converted to a study and passed by the House this week. SB 78 Law Enforcement Privacy/Public Web Sites will now require the North Carolina Courts Commission to study the matter and report its findings to the 2015 General Assembly. The legislation was filed in response to the highly publicized kidnapping of the father of a Wake County assistant district attorney. The bill was converted to a study after concerns were raised regarding the costs to local governments of complying with the legislation, particularly for counties that maintain property and tax information on their websites. Contact: Whitney Christensen
^ Back to Top

League Version of Back-up PSAP Bill Goes to Governor

Legislation to require all primary Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) in North Carolina to have back-up capabilities to respond to system outages passed the House on Wednesday. Having passed the Senate last month, SB 797 911 Board/Back-up PSAP will now be sent to Governor Pat McCrory for his signature. The League was able to have the bill amended on the Senate floor to ensure that PSAPs' existing back-up capabilities will count toward compliance. Without the League's amendment, the bill would have required the construction of new back-up facilities or costly technology upgrades for each primary PSAP in North Carolina. We extend our thanks to Representative Jason Saine and Senator Andrew Brock for working with us to get the bill to its final form. Previous League coverage on this topic can be viewed here. Contact: Whitney Christensen