The House took swift action this week to advance a building inspections bill recommended by an interim committee, passing the measure through two committees and full floor votes in a three-day window. In doing so, legislators adopted significant improvements to the bill that took into account some of the concerns raised by the cities in previous public comments and discussions on the bill. Now, the measure includes extensive detail about how the state Department of Insurance would implement a program that offered building inspections services from a pool of inspectors maintained by the department. Contractors and local governments alike could utilize the pool inspection option under the circumstances described in the bill. While cities still hold some remaining concerns with the proposal, they appreciate the willingness of the bill sponsors to continue negotiations. HB 948 Building Code Regulatory Reform now moves to the Senate for consideration. Contact: Erin Wynia
A provision in the newly passed state budget would authorize municipalities, on a statewide basis, to expend property tax revenue for public education and allow local school boards, charter schools and other education entities to request appropriations directly from a municipality. A dramatic change in statewide policy, it would go into effect with the start of the next fiscal year, July 1. It is important to note that the statewide provision was unexpected, even as there had been discussion of local legislation allowing a handful of municipalities to potentially set up or contribute to local charter schools. Per this year's budget process, there was very limited opportunity for the League, or any other advocacy organization, to provide input and context that might have affected final language. The League has raised concerns that the major policy shift has received little vetting. This provision received plenty of attention during floor debate as it related to funding responsibility for schools and the varying resources available to communities across the state, though amendments to the language were not allowed. Rep. Becky Carney, D-Charlotte, noted that it amounted to a change in taxing structure for local governments and will generate many questions from constituents at home. She said she hopes any issues could be addressed in the technical corrections process.
The budget bill recently passed by the General Assembly includes clear recognition that the state needs to better address broadband access across the state. One provision in the legislation would establish a $10 million broadband grant program, although that money would be directed mainly at private internet providers and utility cooperatives, and municipalities would not be eligible. Meanwhile, some provisions from the 2017 BRIGHT Futures Act are included in the budget. While intended to help further broadband public-private partnerships, a concept supported by the League, the provisions actually prevent a key feature of those partnerships. The League appreciates the willingness of legislative leaders to hear this concern and take steps to minimize this unintended consequence. Read more about the grant program (Legislators Announce Broadband Grant Program) from last week’s Bulletin.