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League Bulletin

June 14, 2019

​WHAT HAPPENED: We're still on budget​-watch as an agreement between the House and Senate has yet to land. Appointed negotiators continued talks this week over the nearly $24 billion state spending plan, on which the House and Senate differed when they came out with their respective drafts.
WHAT IT MEANS: As we've noted in past weeks here, there's nothing unordinary about the House and Senate having different plans for the state budget. The question is how long they'll take to wrap up talks on a compromise version they can send the governor, though conversations have hovered on the near-future. A brief in the Insider State Government News Service​'s subscription newsletter highlighted laughter from one of the House's top bud​get writers when House Speaker Tim Moore hinted at having an agreement ready this week. "The fact that one senior chair started laughing indicated that this is an optimistic view of things," Speaker Moore said. 
ON TAP: The same piece quoted Senate leader Phil Berger as saying an agreement would come "next week at the earliest," and hopes to get the compromise document to Gov. Roy Cooper by month's end. Remember, the League has breakdowns of the proposals that have come out (from the Senate, House, and a compare-contrast document​). 
THE SKINNY: There are other moving parts our eyes are on at the General Assembly. Read on for updates on electronics recycling, regulatory reform, and a struggling local utility that has caught General Assembly attention.

State assistance for struggling local utilities was a significant topic of discussion in the N.C. Senate this week. Utility needs came up in the Pensions and Retirement and Aging Committee​ on Thursday when reviewing a large rewrite of HB 777 Purchase Opt/Credit for Prior-Year FT Service. The rewritten bill includes provisions of the Viable Utility Reserve grant program that were originally included in SB 536 Water/Wastewater Public Enterprise Reform, legislation intended to assist utilities in addressing water and wastewater infrastructure issues. Background on that bill is in previous Bulletin coverage. In this week’s committee discussion, senators noted that the proposal does not include a financing mechanism to fund these grants, even as there is a large need statewide. Sen. Andy Wells of Hickory explained that the provisions match the policy that was included in the Senate budget. He added that the legislation is needed to immediately address the needs of the Town of Eureka, concluding that the Senate is doing everything it can to get funding in place. The committee discussed the bill but did not take a vote on it. 
The Town of Eureka had been the subject of legislation earlier in the week. An amendment to HB 336 Extend Suspension of Spencer Mountain​ was offered on the Senate floor Tuesday by Sen. Jim Perry, whose Wayne and Lenoir County district includes the town, to add a provision to temporarily suspend the town’s charter due to its financial struggles. The move gives control of the town’s assets and finances to the State Treasurer’s office until the suspension expires in 2024. The Local Government Commission – which is a part of the Treasurer’s office – had previously voted to take similar action, minus the charter suspension. The town’s financial troubles stem from the upkeep needs of its sewer system. Senator Perry described the charter suspension as an attempt to give the town a chance to survive. The bill received agreement by the House on Thursday, and as a local bill does not require the governor’s signature to become law.

Other bills with movement this week include SB 553 Regulatory Reform Act of 2019​, which this Bulletin has followed in recent months in part for a no-longer-included provision that would have repealed the statewide ban on computers and TVs entering landfills. With that proposal removed, the bill this week passed the Senate and went over to the House for consideration. Meanwhile, SB 381 Reconstitute/Clarify Boards and Commissions​ received final approval this week from the General Assembly and went to the governor's desk for signing. In addition to making corrections to a variety of boards and commissions to address unconstitutionally appointed membership, it adds to the list of purposes for which Clean Water Management Trust Fund money can be used, including some related to stormwater. SB 315 North Carolina Farm Act of 2019 moved through two committees this week. The bill covers all kinds of agricultural matters, including hog farms, the hemp business and other topics legislators have debated. It additionally contains a provision to allow signs that advertise bona fide farms to be placed within 660 feet of the nearest edge of interstate or state primary highways, subject to certain conditions. The bill would also create a process by which landowners whose land is burdened by a utility easement (including easements for water and wastewater systems) can petition for termination of the easement. The bill is on the full Senate's floor-vote calendar for Monday. You can follow the progress of these and other bills of interest to cities and towns in our online bill tracker​.

The dispensing of opioids has declined since the 2017 launch of the Opioid Action Plan, a state response to the crisis of opioid addiction and related deaths. That's according a press release that Gov. Roy Cooper's office issued this week that unveiled the “Opioid Action Plan 2.0” for continued work. "Since the plan was launched in 2017, opioid dispensing has decreased by 24%," according to the release. "Prescriptions for drugs used to treat opioid use disorders increased by 15% in that time frame, and opioid use disorder treatment specifically for uninsured and Medicaid beneficiaries is up by 20%. There were nearly 10% fewer emergency department visits for opioid overdoses in 2018 than in 2017." The state has received more than $54 million in federal funds that have helped to treat more than 12,000 people dealing with substance-use disorders, according to the update. "The numbers show the progress, but it’s the stories that paint a picture,” said Governor Cooper. “Too many families and their loved ones are still suffering, and we must do more." Read more statistics and learn about the updated plan online​. Information for municipalities looking for ways to combat local opioid abuses, including a video series featuring police chiefs, is found at

We're out with the latest edition of Southern City​, the League's quarterly magazine, this time connecting you with the backgrounds and values of Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler​ and, in a separate piece, Rep. Holly Grange of Wilmington. For Mayor Neisler, it's the story of his roots -- he's got at least two Kings Mountain mayors in his ancestry, including his great-great grandfather, the town's first mayor -- and the myriad ways he's stayed connected with the spirit and vision of his community. For Representative Grange, it's a sit-down Q&A that brings out details of her legislative service and military background, notably as a graduate of West Point not long after the school began admitting women. Other focuses in this edition include a project in Hudson connecting arts and business, cyber security for municipalities, an initiative to bring younger staffers into local government in North Carolina, and much more. Head to for the latest issue and all past. ​