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League Bulletin

August 16, 2019

WHAT HAPPENED: A light week, in a sense. Gov. Roy Cooper and legislative leaders appeared no closer to a state budget agreement. The House put off another scheduled vote to override the governor's earlier budget veto. A number of legislators were out-of-state for a conference. The governor signed a few bills into law.

WHAT IT MEANS: There isn't much new to say, here. Ne​​​ws reports​ indicate the House is still working​ on a budget-veto override; the governor continues issuing press releases​ counting the days without a budget agreement. 
ON TAP: The National League of Cities has just opened applications for leadership spots on its board of directors, committees, councils and constituency groups. This bulletin contains specifics for anyone interested. 
THE SKINNY: You can always find the latest on specific bills we're following with our online tracker​. But we're in production of our usual End-of-Session Bulletin that will round up and explain everything that happened during the 2019 session of interest to cities and towns. Stay tuned. 

After appearing in a number of bills, provisions intended to assist utilities in addressing water and wastewater infrastructure issues were included in the conference report for SB 553 Regulatory Reform Act of 2019. The provisions include the creation of a Viable Utility Reserve grant program that was originally included in SB 536 Water/Wastewater Public Enterprise Reform and also included in the final budget. More background on those provisions can be seen in previous Bulletin coverage​. The conference report for SB 553 includes many other provisions and the Senate is scheduled to consider the conference report on Tuesday.
The governor also this week put into law a pair of bills​ we've reported on in recent weeks. SB 584 ​Criminal Law Reform​ will 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 govenor also signed SB 6​8 Relocation of Water/Sewer Line Costs​, which would reduce the amounts that cities between 25,000-100,000 in population have to pay when a state road project requires relocation of municipal-owned utility lines, like water or wastewater lines.

The Raleigh News & Observer this past weekend shined light on the inadequacies of federal broadband data as a challenge in efforts to expand adequate internet service to underserved or unserved areas. "As North Carolina attempts to expand broadband internet to large swaths of the state that are unable to access it, the state government faces one big obstacle: knowing exactly who doesn't have access to high-speed internet," the article begins. "In part, that's because of the way the Federal Communications Commission collects data on the matter, which overstates how many households and businesses can access fast, affordable and reliable internet connections across the country." The article cites an FCC figure that 94 percent of North Carolina households have broadband access, which North Carolina officials know is inaccurate and can impact access to federal money meant to close the broadband gap. The full article​ dissects the issue and examines policy efforts in North Carolina. (An episode​ of the League's podcast, Municipal Equation, also recently explored the issue and ramifications.) This month, HB 431 F​IBER NC Act​, legislation addressing a major League policy goal of improving broadband access through public-private partnerships, won a committee approval after supporters argued that rural communities are falling behind economically and educationally without adequate broadband connections.

The National League of Cities has opened the application process for leadership positions on its board of directors, committees, councils and constituency groups. "Serving in a leadership position as an NLC Board Member, Officer, Chair, or Member is one of the most rewarding ways for you as a municipal leader to bring your expertise to the service of cities, towns and villages at the national level," the organization says. "By representing your community and contributing your voice, you have the opportunity to impact the direction of the National League of Cities and even national policy." Information on available roles, eligibility and how to apply are on NLC's website​.