WHAT HAPPENED: With the summer months now behind us, legislators have set their sights on fall. Leaders indicated this week that the budget process could extend into October, and public hearings on redistricting have been scheduled across the state through Sept. 30.
WHAT IT MEANS: Still, beneath the large shadow of budget negotiations, legislation affecting our cities and towns continues to move. Gov. Roy Cooper signed several bills into law this week, three of which focus on law enforcement. Details on all relevant legislation can be found in the writeups below.
ON TAP: Also on the September calendar: a discussion of the newly released U.S. Census data and how it affects North Carolina. The League has scheduled a free webinar to address the most pressing questions on this topic, which you can read more about here.
THE SKINNY: When the budget moves, you'll know. Stay tuned to this weekly bulletin for updates. And for a primer on all proposed (and passed) legislation impacting N.C. municipalities, check out the League's Legislative Goals and Issues webpage.
In the meantime, have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!
Gov. Roy Cooper on Sept. 2 signed into law an omnibus criminal justice reform bill, marking the final step in the enactment of wide-ranging changes to police practices and standards in North Carolina.
In a press release on the signing of SB 300 Criminal Justice Reform, Gov. Cooper said:
“We have seen that the criminal justice system doesn’t always treat everyone the same – and too often the differences are disproportionately felt by people of color. This legislation will take us one step further toward a more equitable and just North Carolina for all.”
The legislation includes provisions related to background checks and training requirements for law enforcement applicants, requires early intervention in instances where officers use excessive force and decriminalizes certain local ordinances.
Gov. Cooper also signed into law two other law enforcement bills: HB 436 Support Law Enforcement Mental Health, which requires psychological screening of law enforcement job applicants, and HB 536 Law Enforcement Duty to Intervene, which requires law enforcement officers to intervene and report excessive force. Funding for several new databases mandated by these laws has been included in the House and Senate budget proposals currently being discussed in the General Assembly.
These enactments also mark the achievement of a legislative goal of towns and cities for 2021-22, which is to “improve state-wide funding and support for LEO training focused on use of force, mental health and de-escalation skills.” The League is currently working on a guidance document to help towns and cities prepare for the changes mandated by these laws.
LGC Assistance Toolkit
Governor Cooper signed into law SL 2021-124/SB 314 Local Gov Commission Assistance Toolkit, a bill to assist the Local Government Commission (LGC) in its role in addressing local government financial distress. The law includes provisions that establish a process for a municipality or the LGC to transition a municipality from financial distress through recovery or dissolution; and in the case of dissolution, establishes a process to transfer certain assets, liabilities, and other obligations of a municipality.
This law was the result of stakeholder discussions with the Department of State Treasurer about establishing a “historic charter” status for municipalities that no longer can or want to provide services to citizens, and the League thanks Treasurer Dale Folwell and Senator Paul Newton for the comprehensive stakeholder process that led to this result.
Notably, this law also includes a provision requested by the League that would allow cities more notice when there is a change to the type of sales tax distribution formula used by a county, requiring that the method of distribution will be in effect in the county during the "fiscal year following" the succeeding fiscal year.
Also signed by Gov. Cooper this week was SL 2021-121/HB 489 2021 Building Code and Dev. Reg. Reform. Among other provisions, it places limitations on local government sedimentation and erosion control programs for fees and regulations during residential construction. Prior to the changes in HB 489, local governments operating this state program in their communities were already limited to charging fees only to recover the costs of providing the service to developers. This law prohibits a local program from charging a fee on reinspection after a violation and further restricts how their fee is calculated.
In addition to the fee restrictions, the law contains other limitations as to what a local program may require in sedimentation plans, of self-inspections of erosion controls by site owners, and in placement of silt fences. The law requires municipalities to establish the beginning point for measuring setbacks for sight distances at street intersections. The effective dates in the law vary by provision, with some of the changes to local sedimentation and erosion control programs becoming effective immediately.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released nationwide results of the 2020 Census that included municipal populations. With so much state and federal funding tied directly and indirectly to this process, many local officials have asked questions about their community’s results and what the implications are now and moving forward.
The League is bringing together two of the state’s U.S. Census experts to help answer these questions. N.C. State Demographer Michael Cline and N.C. Census Liaison and State Data Center Coordinator Bob Coats will join this webinar for a presentation on the U.S. Census and the state certified population numbers. This webinar will give participants the opportunity to interact directly with and have their questions answered by top experts.
Local elected officials, staff and all other interested parties are encouraged to join us for this free webinar.
Learn more here.