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League Bulletin

April 15, 2016

After in-depth study, a legislative subcommittee this week recommended against mandating body cameras statewide and proposed instead to leave that discretion to each law enforcement agency.

The subcommittee’s recommended legislation would also clarify important issues with the disclosure and retention of body-worn camera recordings, determining that they are not a public record nor should they be treated as records of criminal investigations. Instead, the legislation would direct the head law enforcement officer of an agency to determine if statutory criteria regarding disclosure had been met. Additionally, the legislation would allow the head law enforcement officer to determine if a recording should be deemed a personnel record. The suggested legislation also addresses length of record retention.

The bill language also directs the Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission and the Sheriffs' Education and Training Standards Commission to develop best practices for the use of body-worn cameras and report back to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety by December 1, 2016. Read more here. Contact: Sarah Collins

Register now to attend Town Hall Day 2016. Scheduled for June 8, Town Hall Day is the premier opportunity for League members to visit legislators and make known their views on issues important to municipalities. It represents the best chance to show strength in numbers and draw attention to the many serious legislative issues facing cities and towns.

Town Hall Day will include:

  • A legislative briefing from the League’s Public and Governmental Affairs Team
  • Meetings with House and Senate leadership
  • Discussions with representatives of state agencies
  • Opportunities to meet individually with legislators from your district, attend committee meetings and observe chamber floor sessions
  • An evening reception with legislators and key state leaders

Nothing can replace the positive impact of in-person conversation on legislators’ votes. More than 400 municipal officials had their say at last year’s Town Hall Day, which generated plenty of media coverage as well. Make sure you don’t miss this year’s opportunity. Click here to register.

Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday issued an executive order to expand LGBT protections to state employees and to request legislation that would “reinstate the right to sue in state court for discrimination” but maintain prohibitions on certain local government actions. Executive Order 93, “To Protect Privacy and Equality,” surfaced in response to House Bill 2, a new state law that Deutsche Bank cited earlier that day as its reason to freeze plans for 250 new jobs at its Cary facility. The company in a statement took issue with HB2’s limits on local authority. “The Bank’s decision is due to state-wide legislation enacted in North Carolina on March 23 that invalidated existing protections of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fellow citizens in some municipalities and prevents municipalities from adopting such protections in the future,” Deutsche Bank stated. Gov. McCrory’s executive order does not change HB2's requirement that individuals in public facilities and schools use bathrooms and changing rooms designated for their biological sex, a measure that supporters say protects women and young girls. The executive order also leaves in place the new law's prohibitions on local governments regulating discrimination in places of public accommodation and on establishing a local minimum wage, according to the Charlotte Observer. Meanwhile, outlets are reporting on visitorship losses linked to HB2.

Democratic Party leaders in Guilford County have tapped Greensboro’s Chris Sgro to fill the unexpired term of the late Rep. Ralph Johnson in the N.C. General Assembly. Sgro, a familiar face at the Legislative Building as executive director of LGBT rights group Equality NC, was selected Saturday by the county party’s executive committee and confirmed by Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday. Sgro will fill the House seat for the short session to convene April 25 and would serve out the year’s remainder. Fellow Greensboro Democrat Amos Quick, a county school board member, won the recent primary election for the seat and will assume it in 2017. Sgro told media outlets he had “big shoes to fill” after Johnson’s service. Johnson passed away the night of the March primaries after complications from a stroke, according to media outlets. Sgro becomes the only openly gay member of the General Assembly. According to the News & Observer, Sgro previously served as economic development director for former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. Equality NC is among plaintiffs in a discrimination-focused lawsuit filed over House Bill 2.

Last Friday saw the resignation of a Republican senator. Dan Soucek, a three-term lawmaker from Boone, had previously declined to seek re-election in the interest of time with family but issued a resignation letter on Friday. It ended his time in the General Assembly ahead of the short session that is scheduled to begin April 25. A successor will be appointed. Click here for more media coverage.
In related news, the Wake County Democratic Party's executive committee is scheduled to nominate an appointment to Senate District 16 on Saturday. That's the seat vacated in March by Raleigh Democrat Josh Stein, who is running for attorney general.

The fate of the state’s electronics recycling program will get further study. The Environmental Review Commission (ERC) discussed a N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) report on Wednesday regarding the state's recycling requirements for discarded computer equipment and televisions, ultimately deciding to study the topic further and report recommendations to the 2017 legislature.

The study was the result of a 2015 proposal that would have eliminated the recycling fees paid by certain electronics producers, but would have kept in place the ban on electronics going to a landfill, foisting the cost of recycling onto municipal and county taxpayers. DEQ’s study report recommended instead that the entire electronic recycling program be repealed, finding that local governments are directly bearing high electronics recycling costs because producer support is inadequate to meet the high costs. This elimination of the manufacturer fee coupled with a removal of the landfill ban would mitigate the concern of costs being transferred to local governments.

Legislation from 2015 also gave ERC the discretion to study utility piping preference. That's after proposed legislation that would have restricted municipalities in their choices for water, sewer and stormwater piping materials did not move. However, no study was conducted in the interim. Instead, the issue was on the committee’s agenda Wednesday as a discussion item. Many legislators said it was not an issue in need of legislation and opined that the legislature should not tell local engineers and system managers how to do their jobs because these professionals know what materials work best for their utility systems. The League thanks Reps. Mike HagerPat McElraft, and Larry Yarborough for their comments.

The ERC also took action to recommend legislation, including the following topics of interest to municipal utilities:

This recommended legislation may be considered in the short session. Contact: Sarah Collins

The Storm Water Association of North Carolina (SWANC), a League affiliate organization, invited legislators serving on the Environmental Review Commission and legislative staff to a stormwater educational tour this week. The event was an opportunity to learn about SWANC and stormwater management policies in North Carolina.

Reps. Bob Steinburg and Larry Yarbrough along with legislative staff join SWANC on a tour of stormwater devices at NCSU

Reps. Bob Steinburg and Larry Yarborough along with legislative staff join SWANC on a tour of stormwater devices at N.C. State University.

SWANC exists to foster professional stormwater management in North Carolina through influencing state policy and building networks between stormwater professionals and state policy experts. Membership is open to any municipality as well as private organizations. Email SWANC for more information.

SWANC extends its sincere thanks to the legislators and staff who participated and to Dr. Bill Hunt of NCSU for leading such a great event!

City of Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath addressed the Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee on Thursday regarding urban search and rescue teams in North Carolina and said there may be a role for state funding. There are currently seven teams in the state, with Raleigh and Charlotte hosting 80-member "type I" teams and the remainder of the teams being smaller "type II" units of up to 40 members. The teams act beyond their host unit geographies, with Urban Search & Rescue Teams in recent years providing aid in the case of hurricanes and tornadoes, structural collapses and floods, among other events. Chief McGrath, speaking on behalf of the state's teams, proposed that given the teams' regional nature, there may be a role for state funding to help share the cost of the teams with the host agencies. Chief McGrath's entire presentation to the committee can be viewed here.

Trent Woods in Craven County might just be the safest town in the state, according to a set of rankings released this week by home security information website SafeWise. “The Trent Woods Police Department operates under the mission of ‘Community First,’ mobilizing residents to work together with law enforcement to help keep their city free from violence and crime,” the site explains. “With fewer than 30 total crimes reported last year, it appears their community policing approach is working.” SafeWise says it bases its rankings on FBI data and focuses only on towns with at least 4,000 residents. Rounding out the top-five are Pinehurst, Holly Springs, Elon and Waxhaw. See the full top-20 with supporting data here. In other ranking news, Raleigh claimed two national top-10 spots this week – as one of the “Most Educated Cities in America” and as among the best for urban farming (that list highlighting the Raleigh-Durham region).
Three initiatives in Charlotte just beat out thousands of bids for funding in a Knight Foundation competition focused on better living and work in communities across the country. “The Knight Cities Challenge seeks new ideas from innovators who will take hold of the future of their cities,” says program literature. Knight announced 37 recipients for grants from a $5 million pool that drew 4,500 submissions. The City of Charlotte secured two grants. An effort called “Crown Town Hall” to more easily connect residents with local government by way of “pop-up events” – meetings with elected officials, signups for services, reviews of area planning work – got $85,000. And the city’s “Can Do Signs” project – focused not on prohibitive signage but instead communicating inspirations or amusements ala “You can dance!” – won just shy of $28,000. A separate recipient, Charlotte is Creative, won $85,000 to create a “mobile quiz show that will team local musicians and artists with cultural groups to entertain, enlighten and challenge diverse communities with questions about the city from the trivial to the pertinent to the controversial.” The Knight Foundation invests its money in 26 communities coast to coast where John S. and James L. Knight owned newspapers, including Charlotte. More information is available here.