Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

League Bulletin

August 30, 2019

WHAT HAPPENED: It's the end of August, and with no change in status for the budget impasse between Gov. Roy Cooper and legislative leaders, the latter have rolled out "mini" budget bills to get certain funds moving, like for state employee pay raises. ​​Some of those bills are on the governor's desk as of this writing. 
WHAT IT MEANS: Governor Cooper is critical of this process, seeing it as a way to "skirt" negotiations over the budget he vetoed, but we don't know exactly what he'll do with the spending bills on his desk. He said he'd review everything the legislature sends him. "Let's show people that there are things we agree on," Senate leader Phil Berger said in WRAL news coverage
ON TAP: A no-vote week. The House and Senate are planning downtime to coincide with Labor Day, returning to business the week of Sept. 9, according to the Insider State Government News Service. At that point, they'll likely work on more individualized spending bills.
THE SKINNY: It's not all a budget deadlock. Other bills continue to move, including a regulatory reform measure we'll tell you about below. It's meant to help utilities address water and wastewater infrastructure issues. And there's more. Read on.

Provisions intended to assist utilities in addressing water and wastewater infrastructure issues appear closer to clearing the legislature this week after being included in the conference report for SB 553 Regulatory Reform Act of 2019. SB 553 is the legislature’s agreed-to package of numerous unrelated regulatory reforms. After being released this week, the bill passed the House and awaits one more vote from the Senate before it can go to the governor. The water and wastewater provisions include the creation of a Viable Utility Reserve grant program for assisting utilities in becoming self-sustaining, a merger and dissolution process for utilities, a process to define and access a distressed utilities, a study of the feasibility of authorizing historical charters for units of local government, and others that were originally included in SB 536 Water/Wastewater Public Enterprise Reform and also included in the final budget. More background on those provisions are in previous Bulletin coverage.

At least two newspaper pieces -- an article and an editorial -- this week touted the positive change HB 431 FIBER NC Act would bring North Carolina and communities in need of adequate, business-strengthening internet service. "Rural communities need broadband. Our legislators need to make this a priority," stated a Wilmington Star-News editorial about the bill, which has a mass of sponsors from both major parties and, this month, won a committee approval​ after supporters argued that rural communities are falling behind economically and educationally without adequate broadband connections. The legislation would better enable local governments to partner with private internet services providers in arrangements that could include building out local fiber networks and then leasing that fiber to the private providers. The Smoky Mountain News also examined the bill this week, with a lengthy article​ quoting legislators from the area, including Rep. Kevin Corbin, one of the bill's sponsors. "We’ve gotten it through one committee and it’s been in about every news outlet in North Carolina," he told the newspaper, "so the push is out there, the publicity is out there...." Visit for information including a report on closing North Carolina's digital divide.

Announced with criticism of Gov. Roy Cooper and the state's pace of distributing federal disaster-relief dollars, a bill from U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis seeks a more direct pipeline to local government. The Ensuring Disaster Recovery for Local Communities Act would set "tangible spending goals for grantees (usually state administrations) and allows cities and counties to request HUD to allocate the federal assistance directly to them when the state fails to distribute those funds in a timely manner (after an 18-month period)," a press release explained. Senator Tillis said the state administration's pace of allocation was "unacceptably slow" and has been a roadblock for communities waiting on funds. State Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and other state legislative brass joined Senator Tillis for the announcement. Governor Cooper's office responded soon after, explaining that his team has allocated nearly $3 billion in state and federal money related to Hurricanes Matthew and Florence and that the state "doesn’t yet have one single penny of CDBG-DR federal housing money that’s specifically for Hurricane Florence survivors." WRAL has more details.

North Carolina has announced the first decline in unintential opioid-related overdose deaths in five years -- a 5 percent decrease in 2018, per numbers gathered by state health regulators. In the prior year, deaths had risen 34 percent. Gov. Roy Cooper called the news a "major milestone" with more work ahead. The state has an Opioid Dashboard that keeps progress on goals in reference to its Opioid Action Plan​. “Opioid overdose deaths and emergency department visits are two key metrics set forth in our Opioid Action Plan, and efforts to improve outcomes in those areas are clearly showing a positive impact,” said N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen. “While this is a significant achievement, we know far too many North Carolina families are still suffering. We must continue to focus on prevention, reducing harm and connecting people to care.” Visit for a toolbox that local governments can utilitize in the community-level effort against opioid abuse.