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League Bulletin

May 22, 2020

WHAT HAPPENED: Legislators continued an unusual “regular session.” The League met with the governor’s office to give input on the needs of local utilities under a soon-to-expire executive order that has kept them from certain revenue collections amid coronavirus hardships. A new executive order further eases restrictions on residents and businesses. And we got a forecast for the 2020 hurricane season ahead.  

WHAT IT MEANS: There’s a lot to lay out. In this Bulletin we paint a picture of how the legislature is conducting business these days, what’s up with the state budget, and we have a look at a Senate proposal to boost the reopening of food and drink establishments. We list specifics from Executive Order 141, which lifts the stay-home order in favor of a “Safer at Home” approach. And we breakdown the storm-season forecast by the numbers. There’s more.    

ON TAP: Attention League members – the annual election of officers and members of the League’s Board of Directors will be voted on electronically by the municipal voting delegates May 20-25, with results to be shared May 28. We have details about that in this Bulletin, but make sure your municipality’s voting delegate participates.  

THE SKINNY: Clearly there’s a lot happening right now, but that’s what this Bulletin is for. We round up need-to-know information with context so you can navigate these challenges with your community in an informed way. 

On Wednesday, the 2020 NCLM Nominating Committee released its report, which outlined the committee's work, including their nominations for the 2020-2021 NCLM Board of Directors. The committee received nominations through April 30 and held a formal virtual hearing that began at 9 a.m., May 18. The annual election of officers and members of the Board of Directors will be voted on electronically by the municipal voting delegates May 20-25. The election results will be shared with the membership on Thursday, May 28, during the virtual Annual Business Meeting, CityVision Part 1. The report and full slate can be viewed online at If you have questions about your municipality's voting delegate, please contact Karen Waddell. 

League leadership met with the governor’s team this week to share thoughts and concerns ahead of the scheduled expiration of Executive Order 124​ and to request flexibility for local communities. That order, which prohibits utilities – including local government-run electric, water and wastewater services – from disconnecting customers unable to pay during the COVID-19 pandemic and from collecting fees, penalties or interest for late payments, is set to expire June 1. We do not know yet if the governor will let the order expire, continue the order, or continue the order with modifications. At the time the governor entered the order, cities and towns across the state were already putting into place plans and programs to help their citizens who were not able to pay their utility bills due to the COVID-19 crisis. The League has requested the order not be extended so that local governments can begin to address the issue at home.
The governor's order applies to all citizens, even if they had not suffered a loss in income because of the COVID-19 crisis. Some cities have seen non-payment rates double or triple in recent months, which strains the finances of utilities that were facing significant challenges even prior to the pandemic. Municipalities would like the flexibility to handle the current circumstances based on what is best for their local community. Allowing municipalities who wish to have the ability to begin setting up payment plans with their customers now will be beneficial in the long run, as the longer utility charges are deferred, the more difficult it will likely be for consumers to repay. League leaders appreciated the opportunity to share these concerns with the governor’s office. 

The contours of the current legislative short session took shape this week, though without many of the ways legislators normally conduct business. The Senate held numerous in-person meetings of its committees all week, taking up routine legislation in rooms pre-arranged for social distancing, but lacking in much public attendance. In contrast, the House held only a few committee meetings and conducted them remotely, only scheduling one full voting session the whole week. However, House Speaker Tim Moore announced that his chamber’s remote meetings would cease next week and that the chamber would return to in-person discussions and voting procedures then. 

Rep. Chuck McGrady, a senior House budget-writer, commented on the difficulties that legislators and advocates alike faced in trying to facilitate a routine lawmaking process with practical limitations on the public’s involvement. “Several lobbyists mentioned to me how hard it was to know what was happening,” he wrote in a constituent update yesterday. “While notices still went out via the internet, often they didn’t get a verbal understanding of scheduling until a formal notice was sent out, making it difficult to research the impact of the proposed legislation and try to garner access to policymakers. This makes lobbyists’ jobs much harder and makes it more difficult for some legislators to familiarize themselves with the details of the bills.” 

Along those lines, this week, legislative leadership signaled a path forward on the one task that typically drives the timelines of all legislative sessions: the budget. Following an extension of the budget bill filing deadline to next Tuesday, the Senate’s leading budget-writers introduced 18 separate budget bills Wednesday. Each bill addressed a specific funding priority for that chamber, and one of them supported a key priority of city officials. If funded, SB 810 Water/Wastewater Public Enterprise Reform would dedicate state funds to public water and wastewater systems at risk of financial collapse. The Senate bill filings this week confirmed the predictions of legislative observers, who for weeks have speculated that legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper would not be able to agree on an overall budget for the next fiscal year, and so instead the legislature would make individualized budget adjustments via separate spending bills.  

Senate leader Phil Berger had previously announced an intention to wrap up short session work by the end of this fiscal year (June 30), and McGrady wrote in his message that the House would work toward the same goal. 

First, plan to attend the Annual Business Meeting on May 28 from 10 am - noon. Then, log on June 16-18 for more live and on-demand education sessions. Both parts of CityVision are available to NCLM members for FREE!

  • The May 28 business meeting will feature Gov. Roy Cooper for an update about COVID-19 relief efforts in local government. Additionally, the meeting will also cover the organization's annual reporting and executive director's report, legislative report and the 2020-2021 Board of Directors election results. 
  • The second part of the CityVision Virtual Summit, held June 16-18, will be a multi-day educational event, with each day focused on a different course of study. Tune in for live and on-demand workshops about economic development, technology and leadership. Each day will offer 2 hours of live education and several options for on-demand "lunch and learn" mini-sessions that feature state government and industry thought leaders.  View the full agenda here

Don't wait to register—the first 1,000 members who register by June 5 will receive a mailed CityVision swag bag and conference packet! Again, this event is FREE for members.

Seeing stability in key indicators of COVID-19 activity, Gov. Roy Cooper this week announced “Phase 2" of restrictions-easing, effective Friday at 5 p.m. That's per his new Executive Order 141​, which ends the stay-home order in favor of a “Safer at Home" spirit. The governor's team emphasizes that for high-risk populations and continues to urge teleworking. “North Carolina is using the data to guide our decisions about when to lift COVID-19 restrictions, and overall our key indicators remain stable," the governor said in a press release. “Safer At Home Phase 2 is another careful step forward, and we have to continue taking this virus seriously to prevent a dangerous spike in infections." The following is verbatim from the governor's office:

“Mass gathering limits in Phase 2 will be no more than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors in most circumstances. These limits apply to the following: event venues; conference centers; stadiums and sports arenas; amphitheaters; and groups at parks or beaches. 

“Some businesses will remain closed in Phase 2 including: bars; night clubs; gyms and indoor fitness facilities; indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters, and bowling alleys. 

“Certain businesses will be open at limited capacity with other requirements and recommendations including: restaurants at 50 percent dine-in capacity with distancing and cleaning requirements; personal care businesses, including salons and barbers, at 50 percent capacity with distancing and cleaning requirements; pools at 50 percent capacity with distancing and cleaning requirements. Employees of personal care businesses will be required to wear face coverings."

See the governor's news release for full info on Phase 2.

Hurricane season begins June 1, and experts are predicting “above normal” activity. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its annual outlook on Thursday. While it doesn’t predict landfalls, it does see a 70 percent probability of 13-19 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes in 2020. Hurricane season runs through November. NOAA will update its outlook in early August “to coincide with the onset of the peak months of the season,” the agency said. Read the full outlook​ and the science behind it. 

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its 2019 population estimates for municipalities, though the results are based on the 2010 census, not the headcount underway right now. Check out the breakdown in North Carolina and find other data tables​ available from the bureau. “Overall, large cities in the South with populations of 50,000 or more continue to grow at a faster pace than in any other U.S. region,” says the Census Bureau. “Since the 2010 Census, the populations of large southern cities increased by an average of 11.8 percent.” As census results inform federal funding decisions, it’s more important than ever to make sure your community is counted to the fullest during the 2020 Census, which is now accepting answers online along with the traditional reporting methods. Learn more at