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League Bulletin

January 5, 2018

The full House and Senate are scheduled to hold a reconvened session on Wednesday, with opening gavels at noon. Conversation has varied as to what the legislature will take up, but a focus on water contamination, in response to the GenX controversy, is possible. (See story below.) Other conversation topics orbiting the session, as reported in recent news stories, include appointments, constitutional amendments and judicial changes, but specific agendas have not been published as of the time of this writing. Legislative leaders may schedule additional sessions beyond Wednesday's if they see fit before their regular "short" session begins in May.
​At a meeting held less than a week before the full legislature's scheduled return, a House panel on Thursday advanced a proposal regarding emerging water contaminants. The draft bill came as part of state leaders’ ongoing response to the GenX controversy. GenX is a chemical substance used in the manufacture of Teflon, and it has been found in water wells both downstream and upstream from the Chemours plant in Cumberland County, including public water supplies in the Wilmington area. With the committee’s vote, the proposal may be considered by the full House when it reconvenes for session on Wednesday. 

Much of the legislative discussion and public comment at Thursday's meeting focused on the merits of funding additional scientific equipment and personnel in state agencies, though the bill draft did not contain an appropriation. Instead, it directed numerous studies by state agencies and universities, with reports back to legislators in April. In his opening remarks, senior committee chair Rep. Ted Davis recognized the need to consider appropriating further funding to investigating contaminants like GenX and others, which have not received extensive scientific study despite preliminary linkages to adverse human health effects. Davis stated that he foresaw a conversation about an appropriation at some point in the coming months. For more, read this WRAL report on the committee meeting. Contact: Erin Wynia

​One of the legislature's most roundly supported bills of 2017, responding to a major issue for cities and towns across the nation, went into effect with the start of the New Year. HB 243 Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act includes, among other things, a requirement on prescribers and pharmacies to check the prescription database before prescribing opioids and allows local governments to support needle-exchange programs. The opioid abuse crisis has been the center of attention for all levels of government as deaths hit alarming rates and was a big focus of the National League of Cities' recent City Summit in Charlotte. The effects of this crisis and other behavioral and mental health challenges as they affect municipalities was also a major focus of League President Michael Lazzara in his acceptance speech back in September. Nearly four people die daily from opioid overdose -- soaring rate, from below 200 in 1999 to nearly 1,400 in 2016, according to a press release from the governor's office. Reps. Greg Murphy, Ted Davis, Chris Malone and Craig Horn were chief sponsors of the bill, which enjoyed bipartisan support from lawmakers along with Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein.

​All 50 states in addition to Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico opted into FirstNet -- the first nationwide broadband network built specifically for public safety agencies -- by the 2017 year-end deadline. North Carolina made the move to join in November (see Southern City's recent piece) on the federal program geared for first responders to keep communication flowing during the kinds of disasters that could hamper or disable other communication channels. The League had a representative involved in the State Broadband Infrastructure Office's review team that assisted in the plan toward joining FirstNet, which according to the state could cover nearly all of North Carolina's population within the first five years. AT&T will team with FirstNet to build and run the network, which is 100 percent federally funded. Members are not required to use the service or specifically use AT&T's FirstNet system as there may be other offerings. FirstNet's website provides comprehensive information.

​Winter Storm Grayson pushed North Carolina well below freezing and complicated travel with ice and snow this week in the eastern part of the state, with emergency management officials warning that black ice and other cold conditions may persist into the weekend. At least four deaths from vehicle mishaps were attributed to the storm as of Thursday, according to news reports. The State Highway Patrol alone had responded to more than 1,300 calls at the time, including 900 collisions, according to the governor's office. The numbers do not reflect the many other calls that county and municipal responders handled. “Our transportation crews, state troopers and other first responders are doing a great job, but you can make their jobs easier by staying off the roads unless absolutely necessary," said Gov. Roy Cooper.