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League Bulletin

July 12, 2019

​WHAT HAPPENED: Jones Street surged back to lawmaking business after the previous week's soft schedule.
WHAT IT MEANS: The end is near? The General Assembly is by all accounts disposing of final bill considerations before adjournment, potentially July 22 -- though a late-August reconvening is in discussion. There's also that one big piece of state governance to complete: the budget.
ON TAP: You'll recall Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the budget that the General Assembly sent him, in part for its lack of Medicaid expansion, which remains a point of contention between the sides. So far, efforts to override that veto haven't shown success, though Republican leaders say they're still working on it. The House passed a supplemental funding bill in the meantime, awaiting Senate action as of this writing. 
​​​​THE SKINNY: While the legislature may be concluding the current slate of bill work, activity is high and we've been following it beat for beat. ​In this Bulletin, we'll detail what happened with a number of bills of interest to cities and towns, touching everything from short-term rentals to electric scooters to regulatory reform and more. 

Faced with stiff concerns over preemption of local ordinances, a short-term rental proposal failed to advance in its first hearing Wednesday. The proposal, put before the House State & Local Government Committee​ in a surprise late-session move, had not been public until then. Numerous committee members—including former local elected officials—objected due to the sweeping preemption language contained in the bill. They stated that it would not only preempt all existing short-term rental ordinances, but it would also potentially preempt most local ordinances related to single-family residential zoning.​
Although House leaders called in three of the four voting ex-officio committee members to boost the number of votes in favor of the proposal, bill proponents ultimately withdrew it. Instead, they said they would rework the proposal to include a study of the topic, plus a moratorium that could bar some new ordinances for the duration of the study. Plans for which bill might ultimately include this language, and which committee might consider it, are unknown at this time. The League opposed the proposal and thanks the many House committee members who vocalized their opposition during the committee discussion. The League also extends a special thanks to the bill proponents, who agreed to modify future proposals to address these serious concerns. Read more coverage of this committee discussion in the article, “Opposition stalls legislation blocking city efforts to regulate AirBnB rentals,​” from WRAL.

After much negotiation with the League and other local government interests, a modified ordinance decriminalization bill advanced in the House Wednesday with a favorable report from the House Judiciary Committee. Now, instead of decriminalizing all local ordinances, SB 584 Criminal Law Reform​ would allow local governments to retain criminal enforcement of their local codes, with one major caveat: if the local government was a city over 1,000 in population, or a county over 20,000 in population, it would need to submit a report that lists of all of its ordinances that were punishable by a criminal penalty. If the General Assembly does not receive this report by Nov. 1, 2019, then that local government’s code of ordinances would immediately become enforceable only by civil penalties. The legislature instituted this reporting requirement last year, and hundreds of local governments have already complied. The bill must next be heard by the House Rules Committee. Cities and towns especially thank Rep. Dennis Riddell​ for his consideration of local government concerns in working to revise the bill. 

A few alcohol-related bills progressed this week, including HB​​ 536 ABC Omnibus Regulatory Reform, which passed the House with language that would allow the sale of more than one alcoholic beverage to a single patron at a time; allow the consumption of alcohol at bingo games and farmers markets; place restriction on the establishment of new Alcoholic Beverage Control boards; ​enable a local option for spirituous liquor tastings in ABC stores; and allow local ABC boards to deliver liquor to mixed-beverage permittees for a fee. Meanwhile, the House passed SB 290 ABC Regulatory Reform Bill​​, which contains language similar to HB 536 but originally pertained to distilleries. The bill has gone back to the Senate for concurrence; H536 has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.

​Electric scooters: The Senate took its first vote of the session on SB 620 Electric Standup Scooters this week, advancing the bill through its first committee hearing. The League appreciates the willingness of primary sponsor and Senate Municipal Caucus co-chair Sen. Floyd McKissick to convert problematic language in Section 4 of the filed bill to a study. Now, the bill contains previously negotiated language to define electric standup scooters, plus directions to the Legislative Research Commission to study the many facets of scooter regulation.
Land use litigation/planning statute rewrite: Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law yesterday SB 355 Land-Use Regulatory Changes, a major proposal affecting land use litigation practices as well as a rewrite of the primary statutes affecting local land use planning. Prior to its passage in the General Assembly, the League negotiated significant improvements to the bill; read more detail about those negotiations in past Bulletin coverage.
Development review and inspections: A wide-ranging bill related to local development review and inspections processes cleared both legislative chambers this week and will be sent to the governor for his consideration. Earlier in this legislative session, the League secured changes to extend the amount of time for residential plan review from two days to 15, and also to remove a problematic provision related to installation of backflow prevention devices on irrigation lines.
Regulatory reform: Both the House and Senate appointed members to the conference committee for SB 553 Regulatory Reform Act of 2019 this week. The move is noteworthy due to the potential for additional items to be added to the bill during the conference process, which takes place in meetings not open to the public. While the bill currently does not contain provisions of great concern to cities, the League will monitor conference negotiations closely.
​Affordable housing: SB 316 Affordable Housing has passed both chambers and went to the governor's desk Thursday. The bill directs certain municipalities to report to the General Assembly strategies they're employing to limit the cost of privately developed housing, subsidies, preserve existing moderate income housing, and other activities related to affordable housing.
Infrastructure: ​SB 68 Relocation of Water/Sewer Line Costs received a favorable report in the House State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday and has been sent to the House Rules Committee​​. The bill would amend law on nonbetterment costs municipalities pay for the relocation of water and sewer lines, stating that a municipality with a population between 25,000 and 100,000 (in a change from the current 50,000) shall pay 50 percent of the cost, while those with 100,000 or more shall pay one hundred percent of the cost.