The House Finance Committee this week approved separate legislation that would extend the state Historic Preservation Tax Credit through 2024, even as the Senate agreed with a House position by also including the four-year extension in its budget plan. HB 399 Historic Preservation Act of 2019 was approved quickly by the committee without any dissent following an explanation by primary sponsor Rep. Steve Ross of Burlington. The tax credit – so crucial to local economic development projects – is now scheduled to expire on Jan. 1, 2020.
HB 399, in its current form, differs from the four-year extension included in the House and Senate budget only in that it would increase caps on project costs for which the tax credit is eligible by $5 million and includes an additional 5 percent credit level for projects in declared disaster areas. The separate bill, though, is important because it will remain a viable vehicle for the extension should the budget bill be caught up in a potential gubernatorial veto and subsequent negotiations.
Meanwhile, this week a resolution passed jointly by the N.C. Mayors Association and N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, along with individual letters from mayors, supporting passage of the extension began being delivered to key legislators. The letters thanked legislators for their support of the extension and included specific information about projects in individual legislators’ districts. But they also urged legislators to pass separate legislation if needed to avoid any delays due to budget negotiations.
Letters to House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger – signed by the chairs of the respective organizations, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Franklin Mayor Bob Scott – urged "final passage of an extension of the tax credit, whether in these (budget) bills or separate legislation, and that the extension not become caught up in extensive budget negotiations."
A bill to clear statutory barriers and allow electric co-ops to expand rural broadband service is now law. SB 310 Electric Co-Op Rural Broadband Services, from Sens. Harry Brown, Paul Newton and Mike Woodard, received the governor's signature on Thursday. "No matter where they live, North Carolinians should be able to depend on high-speed Internet access they need to run businesses, do their schoolwork and stay connected," Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. "I’m glad to sign this bill to make Internet access a priority." The new law specifically allows co-ops to partner with private entities in rolling out broadband service. The legislation's passage again shows how better broadband service is a key priority for legislators and their constituents this legislative session. Meanwhile, negotiations continue regarding HB 431 FIBER NC Act, which would achieve a key League goal of allowing local governments to enter into public-private partnerships to further broadband access and reliability. The League is optimistic that the bill will receive a House committee hearing in coming days.
Lawmakers next week may discuss a House bill that would privatize the system of selling and distributing liquor in North Carolina. HB 971 Modern Licensure Model for Alcohol Control, from Rep. Chuck McGrady, currently sits with the House Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Committee and may come up for review among committee members at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday afternoon (though it has not been added to the legislature calendar at the time of this writing). The proposal would end the state ABC system to make way for a privatized system overseen by a new state commission. The bill would abolish all local ABC boards and remove many related authorities from the ABC Commission’s current powers. A League analysis has more as it relates to local governments and sales regulations. Tuesday's discussion would precede further committee-level stops for the bill, if given ABC Committee approval. In other beverage news, Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday signed into law HB 363 Craft Beer Distribution and Modernization Act, also from Representative McGrady, which among other things seeks to promote the growth of small and mid-sized independent craft breweries.