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Senate Sales Tax Reallocation Bills Introduced

Following weeks of speculation in the media, members of the Senate this week introduced multiple bills that would change the current state and local sales tax structure. The one garnering the most attention was SB 369 Sales Tax Fairness Act, sponsored by Sen. Harry Brown. As filed, the bill would phase in over three years a conversion of the local sales tax to a state sales tax that was allocated to local governments. It would also require counties to use the per capita method of distributing sales taxes to municipalities, and give counties authority for an additional quarter-cent sales tax that is not shared with cities. By repealing Articles 39 and 40 of local sales tax, it would also in effect eliminate the city hold harmless payment made to cities as part of their regular sales tax distribution. That payment is made to compensate for the revenue cities lost when counties agreed to transition the Article 44 half-cent local sales tax to a state sales tax in exchange for the state assuming more Medicaid funding responsibilities.

Based on that analysis of the bill, the League projected this week that at full implementation in FY18-19 cities would stand to lose nearly $120 million annually as a result of SB 369. The League understands that this is an initial draft of the bill and it is likely to evolve as the legislative process progresses, and we appreciate Sen. Brown and the legislative staff meeting with us to discuss our concerns.

Regardless of the bill's specific financial impact, a more overarching concern is the repeal of the local sales tax in favor of a state sales tax allocated to local governments. This removes the local sales tax as a locally levied tax and subjects it to the annual appropriations process. It also impacts some cities positively and some negatively at a time when the League is working for financial stability and flexibility for all municipalities.

Also filed this week shortly before the Senate's bill filing deadline was SB 608 Simple and Fair Formula for Sales Tax Distrib. That bill, sponsored by Sen. Bob Rucho, takes a slightly different approach to sales tax reallocation. SB 608 would establish the amount of sales tax revenues cities and counties received in Fiscal Year 2013-2014 as a "baseline" year. Beginning July 1, 2016, all local sales tax would be converted to state sales tax and allocated to local governments. All counties and cities would receive the same amount of sales taxes they received in 2013-14, and any additional revenues would be distributed to counties on a per capita basis. While no cities would lose money under this scenario -- at least in relation to what they received in sales taxes in FY13-14 -- local governments would still lose control of their sales tax revenue when it was converted to a state sales tax.

Both of these bills were just filed this week and have not yet been scheduled for any committee hearings. The League will continue to work closely with legislators on these proposals and keep you updated as to the progress of these bills. Contact: Chris Nida


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Historic Tax Credit Bill Easily Passes the House

The House gave its approval on Thursday to legislation that would create a new historic preservation tax credit to replace the widely-used credit that expired in January. The House turned back several amendments that would have placed restrictions on the proposed credits before voting 98-15 in favor of the plan. 

This legislation, vital to economic development in small towns and larger cities, tracks a League advocacy goal calling for restoration of the historic tax credit and a competitive film incentives program. HB 152 New Historic Preservation Tax Credit would create an historic credit of 10 to 20 percent of expenses, depending on the size of the renovation project and where it occurred. In poorer Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties and for projects under $10 million, the higher percentage would apply.

The League would like to thank bill sponsors Reps. Stephen Ross of Burlington, Jon Hardister of Greensboro, David Lewis of Dunn and Rick Glazier of Fayetteville for their hard work on this legislation. The bill now moves to the Senate, where it faces key opposition. Senate leader Phil Berger has said that he favors a grant program over tax credits. Meanwhile, a separate bill filed Thursday in the Senate --  SB 472 Local Incentives for Historic Rehabilitation -- provides authorization for local governments to make their own grants and loans for the rehabilitation of historic structures.

Please continue to contact your senators and let them know how important historic preservation tax credits are to thriving downtowns and to larger economic development efforts. The ongoing efforts of League members and other groups involved in a coalition supporting the historic tax credits will be crucial in the weeks ahead as the General Assembly decides this issue. Contact: Scott Mooneyham


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House Approves Bill to Repeal Protest Petition

The House on Wednesday gave final approval to legislation that would repeal the protest petition process. HB 201 Zoning Changes/Citizen Input was approved overwhelming after two changes were made to the bill on the House floor. One change would require municipal governing boards to notify all adjacent property owners of proposed zoning changes at least 30 days before a public hearing; the other would allow any protest petitions filed before May 1 to go forward if the legislation were approved anytime before that date.

The bill repeals the requirement for three-fourths supermajority votes when a valid protest petition is filed. Under existing law, the supermajority vote is forced when 20 percent of property owners within the area of the proposed rezoning or 5 percent of adjacent property owners signed a petition in protest of the proposed change. The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration.

One Senate bill, SB 300 Zoning Changes Majority Rule, would have a similar effect of eliminating protest petitions. Another Senate bill, SB 285 Zoning/Protest Petition Changes, would preserve protest petitions while lowering the supermajority thresholds and increasing the adjacent property owner thresholds. That bill falls in line with reforms supported by League members. Read previous League coverage here. Contact: Erin Wynia


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Senate Leaders Pursue New Round of State Tax Changes

Senate leaders filed legislation Thursday indicating that they will make a push for another major overhaul of state taxes. SB 526 Job Creation and Tax Relief Act of 2015 would lower North Carolina's personal income tax rates by another quarter percent by 2017, to 5.5 percent, and reduce the state corporate income tax rate to 4 percent by that year. It also would allow state taxpayers to exempt $20,000 of income from taxation in lieu of taking mortgage interest deductions and other itemized deductions. Senate leaders say the tax proposal amounts to another $1 billion in tax cuts. 

The bill comes two years after the General Assembly passed a major tax overhaul that included even bigger cuts to personal and state income taxes. Senate leaders say the additional tax cuts are needed to keep North Carolina economically competitive with other southeastern states. House leaders have struck a more cautious tone, saying the previous round of tax changes needs to be allowed to work. They have also expressed concerns about the potential for budget shortfalls resulting from additional tax cuts. 

The bill is yet another piece of legislation that includes provisions affecting jobs recruiting programs. It would raise the cap on the state's Job Development Investment Grant incentives program to $15 million, while limiting Wake, Mecklenburg and Durham counties to no more than half of the programs' money. Unlike the 2013 tax overhaul legislation, the bill does not appear to have any direct affects on municipalities.


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House Bill Would Solidify Business Registration Fee Authority

Cities would have statutory authority to require businesses within their jurisdictions to register with the city annually and pay an associated fee of up to $50 under a bill filed in the House this week. HB 362 Cities/Business Registration is a bipartisan statewide bill sponsored by Rep. John Faircloth and Rep. Cecil Brockman. With a maximum fee of $50 that is only allowed to be used for the administration of the business registration program, the bill would not assist cities in making up the more than $62 million in annual revenue that will be eliminated when privilege license tax authority is repealed on July 1. However, it would allow cities to maintain the registration aspect of the privilege license tax that many have expressed concerns about losing. UNC School of Government professor Chris McLaughlin has expressed his opinion that cities already have the authority to conduct a business registration program, but this bill would make that authority more explicit.
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Legislative Leaders Announce Deal on Gas Tax

Legislative leaders announced Thursday that House and Senate negotiators had struck a deal on legislation intended to stabilize transportation revenue in North Carolina. The compromise language in SB 20 IRC Update/Motor Fuels Changes would mean that the state's gas tax is no longer tied to volatile changes in the price of gasoline. Instead, the tax, now at 37.5 cents per gallon, would drop immediately to 36 cents per gallon, then 35 cents in January and 34 cents in July 2016. Starting in 2018, the tax would be 34 cents plus an additional cost based on population changes and an inflation index.

House Speaker Tim Moore said the plan would create certainty for transportation funding. Both Republicans and Democrats attended the news conference in which the agreement was announced, a signal that the legislation should continue to receive bipartisan support when it goes to the House and Senate floor next week. The League has been heavily involved in advocating for the passage of this legislation, which is critical for future Powell Bill funding. We would like to congratulate legislative leaders for reaching an agreement on this critical bill, thank legislators for their support, and thank all of you for your work advocating for its passage. Read more about the agreement on SB 20 here and here. Read previous League coverage here. Contact: Rose Williams


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Stakeholder Process for Water Quality Rule Review Begins

N.C. Division of Water Resources (DWR) continued its work this week in the expansive "periodic review of rules" process mandated by HB 74 Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, holding the first of five stakeholder meetings to assist in the readoption of nearly all of the state's water quality rules. These rules include many regulations affecting cities and towns, such as the rules governing wastewater discharges, stormwater programs, buffers, reclaimed water, land application of biosolids, and various nutrient management strategies.

The meetings are organized by rule topic and scheduled bi-weekly on Tuesdays until May 19. The first stakeholder meeting focused on the various rules that for many years have been collectively referred to as the “Red Book” and draft rules were separated into three areas: Procedures for Assignment of Water Quality Standards, Classifications and Water Quality Standards for Surface Waters and Wetlands, and Assignment of Stream Classifications.

The purpose of this stakeholder process is to gain perspectives on early draft versions of the rules and to take additional suggestions and questions that may improve the drafts. The formal rulemaking process is not expected to begin until the fall of 2015 when draft rules will be presented to a committee of the Environmental Management Commission. Contact: Sarah Collins


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League to Host Third Regional Meeting on Municipal Finance

The League will host the third in a series of regional meetings examining the future of municipal finance on April 13 in Pineville. The series, A Path Forward: Vibrant Cities Today and Tomorrow, examines the many financial challenges faced by North Carolina municipalities against a backdrop of policy changes from Raleigh and population shifts within the state. Previous meetings held in Southport and Burlington proved successful in creating dialogue on these subjects and generating substantial media coverage.

The Pineville meeting will be held from 10 a.m. until noon. It will include a presentation from League staff looking at the history of municipal finance, comparative tax data with other states, and a review of the legislative debate leading up to the pending repeal of the local business privilege license tax. A panel discussion will  follow, with panelists including elected and appointed municipal officials from across the region. Please join us for this important meeting to explore the challenges faced by your city or town, and demonstrate your commitment to making these concerns known to legislators and the broader public. The meeting is free of charge. Learn more about the event and register here. Contact: Scott Mooneyham


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Senate Bill Would Restrict Rental Registration Programs

Legislation filed in the Senate this week would substantially limit the ability of cities to conduct rental registration and inspections programs. SB 442 Local Gov'ts/Inspect Bldgs & Structures would attempt to impose the same kinds of restrictions on these programs as legislation approved by the House in 2013 but which failed to move in the Senate. Rental registration and inspection programs are used by cities to address blighted, high-crime, substandard and nuisance rental properties to protect surrounding property values and the residents who live there. Contact: Erin Wynia


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League Listening Tour Starts Next Week!

League Executive Director Paul Meyer is hitting the road during the month of April as part of the League's Listening and Vision Tour. In all, there will be 15 stops during the tour, with meetings being held from Marion to Manteo. The very first stop is next week, on Wednesday, April 1, in Sylva. 

This is your opportunity to provide feedback about the League's efforts, the state of affairs of municipalities, and have more input on the evolving role of cities and towns in the future. Some of the meetings will include a session with the UNC School of Government regarding the NCLM's strategic visioning process. To see a full list of stops on the tour and to register, go here. Please come out and let us know your thoughts about the League and municipalities in this rapidly changing political environment!


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Damaging Building Inspections Bill Calendared for Tuesday

Leaders of the House Committee on Regulatory Reform scheduled a Tuesday hearing for HB 255/SB324 Building Code Reg. Reform. The bill contains provisions targeting building inspectors and the performance of their work, including some provisions passed by the House last session. Many provisions in the bill would hamstring local governments' statutory obligation to protect public safety, especially for residential structures. Other provisions would increase the workload of taxpayer-funded building inspection functions to benefit residential builders. Please contact your legislators and members of the committee to voice your concerns. Specifically for cities and towns, the bill:

  • Eliminates the ability for municipalities to require submission of plans for residential structures prior to construction
  • Raises the threshold from $5,000 to $10,000 for which no permit is needed to construct, install, repair, replace, or alter any single family residence or farm building (with some exceptions)
  • Mandates all fees collected as part of a building inspection program to be spent in support of the activities of the inspection department only
  • Requires building inspectors to create de-facto punch lists for residential contractors
  • Defines a standard of conduct for building inspectors with vague, open-ended terms

While League members oppose many provisions of this bill, they appreciate primary bill sponsor Rep. Mark Brody's willingness to discuss the concerns in advance of Tuesday's committee hearing. Contact: Erin Wynia


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Scaled Down Senate Incentives Proposal Gains Quick Approval

The Senate quickly approved a bill this week that would add another $5 million to the state's chief jobs recruiting program, but State Commerce Secretary John Skvarla characterized the legislation as inadequate and referred to it as "a band aid approach." SB 326 Increase JDIG Program Funding passed the Senate unanimously, and is now before the House. 

Meanwhile, the Senate has not acted on a proposal from the House and Gov. Pat McCrory on jobs recruiting, the more substantial HB 117 NC Competes Act. Senate leaders, though, have introduced a competing proposal, SB 338 Economic Development/Tax Modifications, that would lower the corporate income tax and provide for larger Jobs Development Incentive Grants when major projects come to the state. You can read The Charlotte Observer editorial board's take on the fight over incentives legislation here.


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Senate Deadline Sees Many Municipal-Related Bills Filed

With a deadline yesterday in the Senate to file most bills, the past two weeks saw a crush of new proposals. The last significant House bill filing deadline is in just under two weeks on April 8. Bills of note affecting municipalities that were filed in both chambers in the last two weeks include:

  • HB 245 Utilities/The Energy Freedom Act: deregulates third-party energy sales when generated on-site for that property owner's use
  • HB 318 Protect North Carolina Workers Act: repeals the E-Verify concessions that local governments won during the last legislative session
  • HB 328 Highway Safety/Citizens Protection Act: prohibits law enforcement, when determining a person's identity, from accepting identity documents issued by local governments; establishes a "restricted driver's permit" and a "restricted identification card" to be issued by the State under limited circumstances
  • HB 348/SB 550 NC Religious Freedom Restoration Act: establishes new legal standards for measuring whether the actions of State and local governments burden the exercise of religion
  • HB 349 Develop Broadband Connectivity Plan: directs certain state agencies and universities to develop a plan to increase broadband service statewide, including an evaluation of existing private- and public-sector broadband systems
  • HB 352 Standard of Proof/Public Safety Dispatchers: sets the legal standard at "clear and convincing evidence" for evaluating a PSAP dispatcher's official job performance when that person is sued in a court of law
  • HB 363 High Point/Doughnut Annexations: spells out the conditions under which High Point may annex "doughnut holes," or unincorporated tracts completely surrounded by municipal jurisdiction (So far, we are not aware of any other municipalities who have asked their legislator to add them to this local bill. If you ask your legislator to add your city or town to the bill, please let us know.)
  • HB 370 Certain Local Govts in State Health Plan: allows seven local governments to participate in the State Health Plan, following a trend of other local bills filed this session
  • SB 292 Municipal Incorporations/Study: authorizes a legislative study of the procedure for incorporating municipalities
  • SB 295 Move Over/Waste & Recycling Trucks: adds garbage and recycling trucks to the list of vehicles for which motorists must slow down or change lanes when passing
  • SB 300 Zoning Changes/Majority Rule: repeals both the statewide authority for protest petitions and any local acts that authorize a protest petition process
  • SB 321 Exempt Builders' Inventory: serves as a companion bill to HB 168, described in this Bulletin post
  • SB 338 Economic Development/Tax Modifications: proposes multiple measures to attract businesses to the state, including lowered corporate tax rates and changes to a key state jobs recruiting fund; supported by over half of Senate members
  • SB 345 Limit Storage Fees on Damaged Vehicle: caps at $500 the storage fees for vehicles impounded by law enforcement agencies after a crash
  • SB 350 Allow Special Elections/Odd-Numbered Years: reverses a 2014 law that forces all special elections, such as those for local government referenda, to be called in even-numbered years
  • SB 356 Electronic Ads/Property Seized by Police: allows local government law enforcement agencies to use electronic notice publication methods in lieu of print newspaper publication to advertise the sale of seized or confiscated property
  • SB 380 Local Accountability Act: asks voters to amend the N.C. constitution to require the approval of local governing boards for eminent domain or taxation decisions made by any subdivision of that local board, including special districts or authorities
  • SB 383 Study/Fund Improvements to I-95: directs the N.C. Department of Transportation to study methods for funding improvements to I-95, including tolling and managed lanes
  • SB 391 Enjoin Street Gang/Expires in Three Years: extends from one to three years the amount of time for a valid injunction issued to prohibit street gang activity that has been declared a nuisance
  • SB 394 Preemption Affirmation Act: increases the legal liability for local government boards that act to regulate firearms, including disallowing "acting in good faith or upon advice of counsel" as a defense and authorizing additional remedies (such as attorney's fees) for plaintiffs bringing suit against local governments; expands the scope of prohibitions on local government regulation of firearms by adding "taxation, manufacture, or transportation" to the list of prohibited local government regulations
  • SB 396 Limit Number of Studies/MPOs and RPOs: limits the studies a transportation Metropolitan Planning Organization or Rural Planning Organization may undertake to those for which the organization has funding available to begin work on or complete
  • SB 399 Joint Agency & Waste Authority/Tax Exemption: exempts from payment of sales and motor fuels taxes certain joint agencies formed to provide police, fire, or emergency management protection
  • SB 422 County Omnibus Legislation: creates a study commission on payment in lieu of taxes relating to state properties in local government jurisdictions, with two appointments by the League and four by the N.C. Association of County Commissioners; also directs a legislative study of noxious aquatic weeds that endanger water supplies
  • SB 425 DOT Condemnation Changes: serves as a companion bill to HB 201, described in this Bulletin post
  • SB 432 Electronic Pawn & Metals Database: requires pawn dealers and scrap metal recylers to list all information related to metals transactions, such as purchases of manhole or storm drain covers, in a non-public database that is accessible to law enforcement
  • SB 433 Property Protection Act: creates a new cause of action for property owners whose use of their property is interfered with by employees and others entering the property; exempts governmental agencies and law enforcement officers engaged in investigating the premises or the owner or operator of the premises
  • SB 453 Regulatory Reform Act of 2015: proposes a wide range of changes to state laws, including many ideas from previous legislative sessions; of interest to municipalities, the bill contains provisions that would: change the burden of proof in contested cases such as those for water or wastewater permits; create a mechanism for entities subject to environmental regulations to conduct self-audits of those activities and receive privileges and immunities in return for self-reporting violations; abolish the Sedimentation Control Commission and transfer the Commission's current responsibilities to the regulatory Environmental Management Commission; direct a state agency study of current electronics recycling practices; and conform state brownfields laws to corresponding federal laws
  • SB 459 Modify Letters of Objection Requirements: increases from ten to 50 the number of letters of objection needed to force legislative review of agency-adopted rules; restricts the eligibility of persons objecting to rules to those who are residents of the State (not including registered lobbyists), have a legal interest in property of the State, or those incorporated or doing business in the State
  • SB 479 Local Governments in State Health Plan: allows any local government to participate in the State Health Plan, with an enrollment cap of 10,000 insured lives
  • SB 485 Law Enforcement Privacy/Public Web Sites: directs the N.C. Courts Commission to study the circumstances under which a judicial employee, including a law enforcement officer, may request removal of their personal information from a local government-maintained website
  • SB 486 NC Trail Expansion/Economic Corridors: creates a North Carolina Trails Management Trust Fund to complete the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, including trail components built by municipalities; prohibits local government regulation of activities related to construction, maintenance, or removal of trails unless required by federal law, which may disallow some non-federally-permitted municipalities from applying stormwater controls to these activities
  • SB 500 NC Infrastructure Development Act: proposes a new authority to encourage public-private partnerships by the State and local governments for infrastructure projects, and to undertake transportation, public works, and IT projects such as high-speed internet, if the Authority was appropriated state funding or issued revenue bonds
  • SB 513 North Carolina Farm Act of 2015: provides a mechanism for property owners and governmental entities that are parties to a perpetual conservation agreement to petition the Council of State to remove that agreement
  • SB 516 LEO Privacy Protection: directs cities and counties to provide a mechanism for certain law enforcement officials to request removal of personal identifying information from local government-maintained websites, including tax information; reiterates that this personal information remains a public record
  • SB 547 Interconnection of Public Water Systems: allows the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to require local water systems to interconnect with nearby systems, as a permit condition for system construction or alteration
  • SB 552 Sedimentation Control Civil Penalty Reforms: limits the amount the State or a locally-delegated sedimentation/erosion control program may charge for certain violations; requires in-person service of certain first-time penalties
  • SB 553 Public Records/Access for NC Citizens Only: reduces current access to State and local government public records by allowing access only to "citizens of this State," unless the person is accessing, in person, records held by county clerks of court or registers of deeds
  • SB 566 Disposition of Minimal Property Tax Refunds: allows taxing units to set an amount, up to $15, under which the unit would not automatically issue property tax refunds owed; instead, the taxing unit would issue these refunds only upon request of the taxpayer, or would apply the refund amount plus interest to the taxpayer's tax liability in the next succeeding year
  • SB 571 Expand Uses of 911 Fee: allows local public safety answering points (PSAP) to use any funds in the existing PSAP fund balance, as of June 30, 2014, on costs that are not otherwise eligible expenses, subject to certain restrictions
  • SB 576 Fair Competition & Emp. Classification Act: places into law enforcement actions the State may take against employers, including governmental units, that misclassify workers as independent contractors; disallows governmental units from awarding contracts to repeat offenders
  • SB 617 Local Government Reg Reform: addresses complications created by a recent court decision that placed infeasible requirements on local government finance officers for pre-audit certifications of all disbursements; allows owners of property that is partially in a county and partially in a municipality to choose which government's development ordinances would apply to development of the entire tract; requires local governments that provide electric vehicle charging stations to charge user fees to recoup the cost of electricity consumed as well as maintenance and operation of the charging station; sets a new supermajority vote standard when the N.C. Board of Transportation takes a vote to approve reduction of travel lanes for state roads within municipalities to accommodate bike travel lanes; permits local governments to lease property for the purposes of telecommunications towers for a period of up to 25 years without treating the lease as a sale; among other provisions, restricts city and county authority to require compliance with State rules or regulations that were deemed voluntary, regulate hospital or free-standing emergency room signage, regulate ownership or possession of five or fewer beehives
  • SB 618 Modify OSBM Fiscal Analysis: Existing Rule: releases state agencies from the responsibility of undertaking a fiscal analysis for rules readopted under the legislatively-mandated "review of rules" process
  • SB 622 UAS/No LEO Surveillance of Private Property: disallows law enforcement agencies from using drones to photograph gatherings on private property
  • SB 633 State and Local Gov. Transparency Act: requires posting of an extensive amount of information related to operations of State and local governments that maintain a website, including, among other items: budget and financial audit information, procedures for public records requests, employee salaries, contracts with registered lobbyists, detailed list of all taxes and fees imposed, detailed lists of expenditures, and reports of all incentives; failure to comply with this statute would constitute a denial of access to public records
  • SB 639 Transportation Funding Bill: establishes a new method for funding transportation, combining a reduced gas tax and increased vehicle fees; requires a voter referendum for any highway toll project
  • SB 650 Elections Transparency: makes partisan all elections that are currently non-partisan, including municipal, school board, and judicial elections
  • SB 664 Study Local Gov't Contract Lobbyists: directs a legislative study of local government practices with respect to designating employees as legislative liaisons or hiring contract lobbyists
  • SB 682 Modify Sunset Re: Contingency Audits: makes permanent a prohibition on local governments' use of contingency fee-based audits, which local governments use to ensure proper valuation of property subject to taxation
  • SB 689 Public Infrastructure Oversight Commission: creates a new state commission, with membership that includes the League Executive Director, that would coordinate a statewide strategy to provide infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer, schools, and broadband
  • SB 699 Protect LEO Home Address/Other Information: creates an exception from the state's public records laws that allows a sworn law enforcement officer to request annually that their employer withhold certain personal information from public records
  • SB 700 Limit Sales Tax Refund for Nonprofits: lowers the allowed amounts for refunds of sales tax payments to non-profits; for local governments, the annual refund cap is reduced from $13.3 million to $29,630
  • SB 704 LRC-Study Mobile Home Park Abandoned Property: allows a legislative study of how to enhance collection of property taxes owed on abandoned property in mobile home parks
  • SB 705 Ensure Fair Sale of Dorothea Dix Property: sets the terms under which the State may convey the Dorothea Dix property located in the City of Raleigh, including a minimum purchase price, and terminates the lease executed in December 2012 that allowed the City of Raleigh to lease the property

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Legislation of Municipal Interest Moves Through Legislature

Amid the intense work of drafting and filing bills, legislators also advanced several measures of interest to cities and towns this week:

  • A House committee approved and sent to the full House HB 156 Legal Notices/Require Internet Publication, a press industry-supported bill that would continue a monopoly for the press regarding electronic notice while providing little or no financial relief for taxpayers. The proposal would require newspapers to publish legal notices online at no additional charge, when a governmental entity had paid for the statutorily-required print notice. The House scheduled a vote on the bill Monday night; read more background in this recent LeagueLINC Bulletin article.
  • The House Judiciary IV Committee passed HB 127 DOT Condemnation Changes on Wednesday. The bill would enhance awards for plaintiffs' attorneys in quick-take condemnation cases at the expense of taxpayers. The N.C. Department of Transportation and local governments use the quick-take condemnation procedure to more quickly bring online public infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer, and airport projects, saving project costs. While the League appreciates bill sponsor Rep. Skip Stam's willingness to meet and discuss concerns regarding this language, the League continues to believe that the committee-approved measure would would encourage plaintiffs' attorneys to bring cases to trial, likely delaying projects while running up legal fees. The bill goes now to the House Appropriations Committee.
  • The House passed HB 173 Omnibus Criminal Law Bill on Tuesday. The bill contained a League-supported provision to allow a judge to extend an injunction granted to a local government that declared gang activity to be a nuisance. This change would allow the injunction to continue for the length of time needed to resolve the underlying court proceedings.

Contact: Erin Wynia


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State Regulations of Transportation Networks Introduced

Two bipartisan measures introduced this week would set insurance requirements for digitally dispatched transportation services like Uber and Lyft, with one restricting local government regulation of the services. 

Senate Bill 541 Regulate Transportation Network Companies filed Thursday would establish permit requirements for transportation network companies to operate in the state. However, the permitting authority would be the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles. Local governments would not be authorized to impose fees, require licenses, limit the operation of services, or otherwise regulate these services under the bill. The bill also included insurance and safety requirements.

Senate Bill 414 Regulate Transportation Network Services, filed on Wednesday, would enact a new general statute setting automotive insurance requirements for transportation network services. That legislation would require separate levels of insurance coverage be provided by the company or the driver when (1) a driver is participating in a ride request, and (2) a driver is on the platform, but is not serving a request. The bill would also require a transportation network company to make certain disclosures to its drivers regarding insurance, and if a company does not provide insurance to its drivers, to notify each driver's personal auto insurance company of the driver's participation in the network. A third piece of legislation filed Thursday, Senate Bill 567, is substantially similar to SB 414. Contact: Sarah Collins


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Proposal Would Limit Engineer Discretion in Piping Material Selection

SB 397 - Open & Fair Competition/Water & Wastewater filed Tuesday would prohibit public entities who seek state funding for water, wastewater, or stormwater projects from using their judgment in the selection of piping materials. This bill could override local standards and specifications that have been developed over time based on past experience. Since material selection can be location and application sensitive, local conditions and requirements should be the primary factors when considering pipe materials on any project. Contact: Sarah Collins


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Senate Approves Deal on Cities' Power Debt

The Senate has given approval to legislation that will allow a deal to go forward that promises to eventually lower power bills in 32 cities and towns in eastern North Carolina. The deal between the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency and Duke Energy was struck last summer. SB 305/HB 265 NCEMPA Asset Sale enables the 32 cities that make up the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency to issue bonds to facilitate the agreement while allowing Duke Energy to purchase the power-generating assets that the agency now controls. The Senate approved its version of the bill with just one dissenting vote.

The debt incurred for the municipalities' ownership stake of those assets has created higher energy costs in those towns and cities than for other areas of the state. Although the deal is expected to lower rates, officials in those municipalities are cautioning that the reductions may be small initially. Read more about the deal and legislation here.


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Legislators Mull Map Act Restrictions

The House Committee on Transportation this week gave its OK to legislation that would repeal the state Map Act. The Map Act has come under criticism because in some cases it had led to road corridors being designated for years without construction while development restrictions were placed on the property owners in those corridors. Most of that criticism had been directed at the state Department of Transportation, but local governments were also included under its provisions.

HB 183 Repeal Map Act would do away with the 1987 law, which was originally passed in an attempt to hold down road-building costs. The bill next will be considered by the House Finance Committee. A separate Senate bill, SB 373 Repeal Map Act, would also do away with the law. Yet another piece of Senate legislation would attempt to tweak the law to limit the time that development can be restricted. SB 364 Map Act Revisions reduces from three to two years the length of time a transportation corridor designation may stall issuance of building permits or approvals of subdivision plats. It also makes other changes designed to ensure that corridor designations are made with relative certainty that roads will actually be constructed in the near future. Read more about Map Act-related legislation here.