The House this week approved a scaled-backed version of legislation that would allow billboards condemned due to road and other construction to be relocated in some areas where they currently would not be allowed. The 73-43 House vote for HB 645 Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws followed negotiations by the League that led to changes that included limiting the relocations to within two miles of the condemned signs original location and elimination of some language that could have led to more generous compensation when billboards are not relocated. The bill would allow those relocations in areas zoned commercial and industrial. In addition, several changes were made on the House floor, including removal of all language that would have changed vegetation cutting rules around billboards and a requirement that the military must be consulted when relocations occur within five miles of a military base. After the bill was approved by the House Transportation Committee in a close vote last week, it was then reassigned from the House State and Local Government Committee to the House Rules Committee, a sign that House leaders wanted some version of the legislation to pass. At that House Rules Committee meeting on Monday night, League Chief Legislative Counsel Erin Wynia told committee members that, while municipalities still had concerns about the bill, the changes were enough to cause the League to take a neutral position in return for keeping the negotiated provisions. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Shortly after last week’s Bulletin was completed, the House gave final approval to its budget proposal. The 61-51 vote in the House sent HB 966 2019 Appropriations Act to the Senate for further consideration. (Read the League’s summary of House budget provisions impacting municipalities.) The Senate appears likely to begin developing its budget proposal in short order, with Sen. Harry Brown saying this week that the chamber hopes to pass its version of the budget in the last week of May. From there, a conference committee would likely work to resolve differences in the two proposals before an agreed-upon conference budget is passed in both chambers and sent to Gov. Roy Cooper for his consideration.
Senate budget writers will have additional revenue to work with when developing their spending plan. The chief economist from the Fiscal Research Division of the General Assembly told lawmakers this week that April income tax collections were $395 million above projections, representing a 46 percent increase over similar collections in April 2018. A complete, updated revenue forecast is expected next week, but those totals mean the budget surplus for the current fiscal year could be more than $700 million, although it was unclear as of this writing how much of the additional revenues would be recurring or a one-time event.
State leaders have selected multiple city officials to serve on a new commission to examine transportation funding sources, with Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane picked as the group’s co-chair and Banner Elk Mayor Brenda Lyerly and Charlotte Council Member Julie Eiselt also serving among the group’s 14 members. The NC FIRST Commission (in longform, the North Carolina Future Investment Resources for Sustainable Transportation Commission) met for the first time last Friday. With a mission to advise Secretary of Transportation Jim Trogdon of potential sources of funding to build and maintain the state’s transportation system, the commission’s work addresses one of the top policy concerns of municipal officials. Meeting every two to three months for the next year and a half, the commission will deliver its recommendations in time for the convening of the 2021 legislative biennium. The perspective of city officials will likely play a prominent role, starting with a presentation that League Chief Legislative Counsel Erin Wynia gave at last week’s kick-off meeting. Wynia, along with other speakers, addressed the numerous factors disrupting age-old transportation funding sources, such as the gas tax. The group’s next meeting is set for July 12. View the meeting schedule online.