Legislation Filed Expanding County Authority To Aid In Broadband Access
Legislation addressing NCACC's top legislative priority, expanding broadband access in unserved and underserved areas of counties, was filed this week. NCACC has worked closely with House and Senate members on the language filed in Senate Bill 689
County Broadband Authority. While this bill was filed in the Senate this week, NCACC is working to have a companion bill filed in the House prior to the House bill filing deadline next month.
Senate Bill 689
County Broadband Authority clarifies authority to allow counties to partner with private or non-profit internet service providers in order to expand service in unserved and underserved areas of the county by doing the following:
- Adds the following as an authorized purpose for which counties may levy property taxes under G.S. 153A-149(c): "To provide grants to high-speed internet access service providers or to build facilities and equipment of a broadband service."
- Authorizes a county to build internet technology infrastructure and sell or lease the infrastructure to private or non-profit internet service providers for the purpose of providing high-speed internet service within the county.
- Authorizes and clarifies county ability to use county general fund revenue as well as state or federal funds to construct the technology infrastructure.
- Authorizes and clarifies county ability to use county general fund revenue, as well as state or federal funds, to provide grants to private or nonprofit providers of high-speed Internet access service to expand service within the county.
- Does not authorize counties to provide high-speed Internet broadband service.
NCACC thanks Senator Kevin Corbin, Senator Valerie Foushee, and Senator Ralph Hise for their leadership on this critical issue for counties and for filing this vital piece of legislation.
ACTION REQUESTED: Please contact your Senator(s) and ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 689 County Broadband Authority. Click HERE to view a statement on the bill NCACC issued to statewide media.
Senate Bill Filing Deadline This Week
The halls of the General Assembly were quiet this week as legislators took a "Spring Break" and conducted no public business. NCACC expects public action to resume next week as the Senate works toward drafting and approving its 2021-2022 budget in the coming weeks. Although legislators conducted no public business, the Senate bill filing deadline was this week, resulting in a number of bills filed that align with NCACC legislative goals
. Legislation filed this week of importance to counties includes:
- Senate Bill 517 Innovative Statewide Broadband Infrastructure — authorizes counties to lease existing broadband infrastructure, provides funds for GREAT grant expansion, provides funds to the Institute of Emerging Issues to convene stakeholders to study regulatory relief that would lead to broadband expansion, and provides funds to the NC Department of Information Technology for the creation of a statewide broadband access map (aligns with NCACC legislative goal).
- Senate Bill 519 Yellow Brick Road — adds a timeline for the NC Department of Transportation to accept subdivision transportation improvements to the state highway system for maintenance no later than 90 days after receiving the filing of the certificate of completion.
- Senate Bill 529 County Waste Management Assistance — restores the Scrap Tire Disposal Program within the NC Department of Environmental Quality. The program was eliminated in 2013 and provided grants to counties for recycling of scrap tires (aligns with NCACC legislative goal).
- Senate Bill 531 Public Bodies/Mods to Remote Meeting Reqs. — expands authorization for remote meetings to be allowed during emergencies declared by the county. The bill amends current law to clarify that a public body may take action during a remote meeting if it allows for submissions of written comments on the subject of the public hearing between the required meeting notice and 24 hours prior to the noticed time for the hearing. The bill also allows a public body that has issued notice for an in-person meeting to amend the notice to make the meeting a remote meeting, up to six hours before the noticed time for the in-person meeting (aligns with NCACC legislative goal).
- Senate Bill 532 Local Option Sales Tax Flexibility — makes changes to Article 46 sales tax statutes to allow counties additional flexibility with regard to local option sales and use tax. The legislation also allows counties to specify the use of the tax on the ballot-either public education, general purpose, or a combination of the two (aligns with NCACC legislative goal).
- Senate Bill 547 FIBERNC ACT — authorizes counties to build broadband infrastructure and lease it to internet service providers to provide broadband services. Adds "broadband services" to the list of purposes for which a county may levy property taxes under G.S. 153A-149(c) (aligns with NCACC legislative goal).
- Senate Bill 605 North Carolina Farm Act of 2021 — makes various changes to the laws concerning agriculture and forestry.
- Senate Bill 643 Invest NC Bond Act of 2021 — proposes a bond, to be approved by voters, of $4.5 billion including, $2.5 billion for K-12 public school capital needs and $500 million for community college capital needs (aligns with NCACC legislative goal).
- Senate Bill 706 Carolina's Guarantee Scholarship Program — creates a program to award state-funded Community College Promise Scholarships to eligible students for a maximum of four academic semesters at a North Carolina community college (aligns with NCACC legislative goal).
- Senate Bill 715 Hospitality Business Assistance — allocates $300 million of the American Rescue Plan monies received by the state to the NC Department of Revenue to establish and administer the COVID-19 Hospitality Business Recovery Program to provide relief in the form of grants to qualifying hospitality businesses. Among authorized use of the grant funds received by the businesses is payment of local property taxes. NCACC supports this bill and believes it a more effective method of relief than that found in House Bill 119 Property Tax Relief for COVID Affected Bus.
In the most recently released County COVID-19 report
from NC DHHS, there are no "red" counties — "red" counties indicate critical community spread of the virus. The impact indicators are improved from the previous March report, and much improved from early in the year.
NC Department of Health and Human Services now reports by age group the percentage of the state's population
that has been partially or fully vaccinated. According to the dashboard, 21% of the state's population (all ages) is fully vaccinated. Everyone aged 16 and older is now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination in North Carolina.
This week, the NC Department of Health and Human Services launched a public information campaign to encourage Medicaid beneficiaries to enroll in NC Medicaid Managed Care. NCDHHS developed a toolkit
to assist NC Medicaid partners in spreading the word about open enrollment, which runs through May 14.
Visit NCACC's resource page on the American Rescue Plan HERE, which will include updates on information and other events as they are added.
Reminder for NCACC Webinar: American Rescue Plan
Join your NCACC staff for an informational webinar to learn more about Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to be provided to NC counties under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. We'll also hear from National Association of Counties representatives and staff from the NC Pandemic Recovery Office, who will share information on the forthcoming guidance from the US Department of the Treasury. They will also discuss how county experience with Coronavirus Relief Funds may help inform the new funding assistance. This virtual event for county commissioners and staff is Tuesday, April 13, from 3:00–4:00 p.m.
According to estimates from the NC Department of Revenue, local governments are expected to receive $343.4 million in sales tax distributions in April, a 23% increase statewide compared to last year. April 2021 distributions reflect January 2021 sales (February collections), when the state was operating under the modified Phase 3 reopening plan. This significant statewide increase follows 19% growth last month and 11.5% the month before that. Read more in the monthly update: Sales Tax Distribution Estimates/COVID Revenue Updates
LGFCU Excellence in Innovation Awards Application Now Open
The 2021 Excellence in Innovation Awards program is now accepting applications. In addition to the ongoing work taking place across county disciplines, special consideration will be given this year to COVID-19 response efforts. Click HERE
for more information on the awards program.