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League Bulletin

April 12, 2019

​WHAT HAPPENED: With the Senate filing deadline gone, it was all House bills (116 this week) coming out of the drafting office, while Senate proposals from prior weeks continued through the legislative process and included hot topics like abortion, CBD oil and, of direct interest to cities and towns, local tree ordinances. 
WHAT IT MEANS: New House proposals may surface until April 16 (the deadline for public bills and resolutions not related to appropriations or finance) and April 23 (for those spending bills). As always, we're continuing to plug them into our online bill tracker​, allowing you to follow along. See coverage of the tree ordinance bill and others in this Bulletin. 
ON TAP: Spring break. As reported by the Insider State Government News Service, both chambers are set to go on break (on slightly different schedules) this month. The publication, citing House Speaker Tim Moore, notes that the House has a loaded calendar in the first part of the upcoming week, and then nothing until April 24. In the Senate, leaders are gearing up for usual business through Thursday next week, and then taking off the week of April 22. 
THE SKINNY: Talk of spring break doesn't mean the legislature isn't busy. On the contrary, there's a lot happening at this point in the session, and we're still moving toward budget drafts and a crucial deadline for legislation known as "crossover." Read on for highlights from this past week. 

A bill opposed by cities and towns for its impact on local tree ordinances advanced in the Senate this week and found ample media attention for its potential negative effects. The League continues to ask that you contact your state senator and let him or her know that SB 367 Clarify Property Owners' Rights undermines local authority and harms local visions of community character that are critical to economic development and residents' quality of life. On Tuesday, McClatchy newspapers in North Carolina ran coverage of the story and noted that cities and towns wanting a tree ordinance would need the express permission of the legislature if the bill passes. The article quotes the League's Scott Mooneyham: “Municipalities and the municipal officials, and the local people who elect them, are best positioned to determine whether these ordinances are applicable to towns and cities, and what should be in them,” he said. The Pilot newspaper of Southern Pines also covered the issue​ and noted that officials there have reached out to the General Assembly to share concerns. The Pilot article quotes a local resident who raised the issue at a village council meeting. "I don't think we should give up our rights," he told the council, referring to local decsion-making. It comes as a village subcommittee has been working for months on tree regulations, according to the article. The Senate State and Local Government Committee signed off on the bill this week and directed it to the chamber's Judiciary Committee. 

The registration deadline for CityVision 2019 -- the biggest and best conference for North Carolina cities and towns to prepare for the challenges of today and the future -- has been extended to April 21. Set for May 14-16 in Hickory, CityVision will bring participants two full days of informative sessions and engaging speakers, including Attorney General Josh Stein on the opioid-abuse crisis. Stein's office, amid a number of other addiction-related concentrations, has launched a campaign for a More Powerful NC​ to strengthen the fight against opioid addiction. There's plenty of variety on the two-day agenda. Visit the signup page for more details and FAQs. CityVision is coming right up! Don't miss your chance. Register today

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday heard but did not vote on a complex piece of legislation that makes wide-ranging changes to land-use regulatory statutes. SB 355 Land-Use Regulatory Changes​ includes provisions that would incentivize development-related litigation at local taxpayer expense and weaken protections for neighboring property owners of new developments. In its current form, it is opposed by the League. 

While intended to ease subdivision development, the committee heard from Bonner Gaylord, a lawyer for large Raleigh-based mixed-use developer Kane Realty, who said the legislation could slow the multi-million dollar mixed-use development projects that help drive the state’s economy in major metropolitan areas. That result is likely because, as currently written, the legislation would affect how conditional use zoning negotiations – designed to meet developer needs while protecting surrounding property owners – take place by subjecting cities to increased liability, and therefore, more potential litigation costs. 

League Chief Legislative Counsel Erin Wynia told the committee that the collective effects of the entire bill would be to significantly tilt rights in favor of the developer over neighboring property owners. She asked committee members for more time so that changes to the bill could be considered.

While committee chairs initially indicated that the legislation would be considered again in a meeting on Wednesday, the bill was dropped from the calendar, a signal that changes may be coming.  

A bill filed in the House this week would mandate a two-day turnaround time for local officials to review residential building plans submitted under the seal of an engineer or architect. If submitted by other persons and not under seal, the timeframe for completing the plan review would be five days. Cities that review residential building plans do so to ensure proper design, for compliance with safety and zoning codes. This provision was included in an omnibus building inspection bill, HB 675 2019 Building Code Regulatory Reform​, which includes numerous other measures that affect local building inspection processes:
- Directs creation of a standardized form to certify third-party inspections of various building components or elements;
- Prohibits cities from requiring developers to bury power lines under specifically-listed circumstances;
- Prohibits cities from requiring a minimum square footage for residential structures;
- Exempts temporary structures related to motion picture, television, and theater stage sets from building permitting processes;
- Extends until October 1, 2021 a requirement for cities to report instances where building inspectors find more than 15 building code violations in one inspection. 
Contact: Erin Wynia​

April 1 marked the one-year countdown​ to Census Day 2020, and officials since then have stepped up their efforts to ensure a complete count. "Data literally shape the future of your community," said Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham. "That's why it's so important that everyone understands that responding to the 2020 Census is safe, easy and important." In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper pointed out the state's coordination with the Census Bureau, the N.C. Counts Coalition and other groups along with "complete count committees" in communities around the state. It's not just a run-of-the-mill headcount here, as population changes over the years may gain North Carolina another congressional seat. Census results also determine areas' eligibility for vast federal resources. "The outcome of next year’s census will affect our state’s overall health, growth and prosperity for years to come and we must work together to achieve the most accurate and complete count of North Carolina’s people possible," said Governor Cooper in a release​. More information is available at The League took a look at the stakes of the 2020 Census in a recent episode​ of its podcast, Municipal Equation. 

The governor's office announced this week that North Carolina had been selected for a $12 million grant to fuel its efforts against the opioid-abuse epidemic and to expand prevention, treatment access and other improvements. "This grant will help prevent overdose deaths and expand access to treatment, which provides a path to recovery," Gov. Roy Cooper said. According to his office, the award comes on top of $54 million already programmed here from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and it's helped 12,000 North Carolinians with treatment. A press release​ has full details.