Legislators were particularly busy this week as the May 13th "crossover" deadline approaches — the date by which non-finance related bills have to receive approval in the chamber in which they were introduced and "crossover" to the other chamber. Legislative committees met almost continuously, hearing dozens of bills per meeting. This pace is likely to continue early next week. Please see below for more information on legislation important to counties.
House Bill 704: Local Option Sales Tax Flexibility
— modifies the existing Article 46 local option sales tax so that it may be levied, at a rate of either 1/4 or 1/2 cent and allows counties to specify on the ballot the use of the tax — either any of the options listed in current property tax statutes or general purpose. The legislation aligns with NCACC's long standing goals to expand the existing local revenue base of counties, and authorizes local option revenue sources already given to any other jurisdiction, to all counties. The legislation also allows counties to specify the use of a sales tax levy on the ballot. The legislation has passed House Finance and Rules committees and is scheduled for a floor vote on Monday.
House Bill 815: County Broadband Authority
— authorizes counties to provide grants to internet service providers for the purpose of increasing access to unserved areas. The legislation aligns with NCACC's priority legislative goal of increasing access to expand digital infrastructure/broadband capability. The bill was filed this week and referred to the House Rules Committee.
A number of bills were filed and/or saw action this week related to land-use, planning, zoning, development, and regulatory reform. This has been a theme for much of the legislative session. NCACC encourages our members to review these bills carefully and let us, as well as your House and Senate members, know of any concerns.
- Senate Bill 329: Building Code Modifications — exempts commercial properties of a certain size and value from building code requirements, and prohibits local governments from enforcing policies related to building changes if the repair is less than $300,000 and does not makes changes to load-bearing structures. The bill passed the Senate this week and now heads to the House for further consideration.
- Senate Bill 349: Increase Housing Opportunities — preempts local government zoning authority, primarily around "middle housing" (duplexes, townhomes, etc.), "accessory dwelling units", and downzoning. The bill mandates local governments treat duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and townhouses as a single-family dwelling and mandates they allow construction of up to a four-family dwelling unit on single family lots. The bill also makes other development permitting changes. The bill received a hearing this week in the Senate Finance Committee but did not receive a vote. The bill could reappear in committee for a vote as early as next week ahead of the crossover deadline. NCACC urges you to contact your Senate member(s) and express your concerns with this legislation.
- House Bill 218: Streamline Permits/Redevelopment of Property — requires counties that implement water supply watershed protection programs to allow an applicant to exceed the allowable density under the jurisdiction's applicable water supply watershed rules under certain circumstances. The legislation also prohibits a county from considering a building footprint expansion of up to 20% a site plan modification if certain criteria are met. The bill passed the House Local Government-Land Use, Planning and Development Committee and is expected to be voted on by the full House early next week.
- House Bill 291: Commercial Prop. Plan Rev./DOI Oversight — requires local governments to review and issue building permit decisions on certain commercial and multifamily building plans within 21 days of submission or within 15 days of receiving additional requested information or resubmitted plans. Authorizes local governments and a building permit applicant to use a Department of Insurance qualified code enforcement officer or contract with a third-party engineering firm to perform initial plan reviews under certain circumstances. The bill passed the House Local Government-Land Use, Planning and Development Committee and is expected to be voted on by the full House early next week.
- House Bill 344: System Development Fees Update — makes clarifying changes to the statutes regarding county imposition of system development fees. The bill passed the House this week and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
- House Bill 489: 2021 Building Code and Dev. Reg. Reform — makes changes to the general contractor licensing process as well as laws pertaining to local governments' ability to regulate erosion. The bill passed the House Finance Committee this week and will likely be considered by the full House early next week.
- House Bill 496: Property Owners' Rights/Tree Ordinances — prohibits local governments from adopting ordinances that prohibit the removal of trees from private property. To do so, the local government would need express authority from a general or local law. Ordinances regulating the removal of trees from private property would be repealed if they are not already authorized by a local act or an express authorization of the General Assembly. The bill passed the House Local Government-Land Use, Planning and Development Committee and is expected to be voted on by the full House early next week.
- House Bill 684: LRC Study Development Exactions — directs the Legislative Research Commission to study the constitutionality of conditions placed on development that require public facilities or improvements at the expense of the landowners seeking to develop the property. The bill also provides in detail the topics to be studied and the impact on affordable housing. The bill passed the House this week and now heads to the Senate for consideration.
- House Bill 686: No Gov't Retribution for Refusal of CV19 Vax — provides that county employees and applicants have the right to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine without termination or retaliation. Adds retaliation by a county employer for an employee or applicant's refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine as one of the issues that can be heard as a contested case by the Office of Administrative Hearings pursuant to the North Carolina Human Resources Act. The bill also states that individuals who refuse a COVID-19 vaccine have the same right to freely use state and local government buildings and land as an individual who receives a COVID-19 vaccine. The bill passed the House Health Committee this week.
- House Bill 712: Preservation of Workforce Housing — regarding parcels where multifamily structures are an allowable use, prohibits local governments from imposing a harmony requirement or any other subjective conditions or standards for permit approval if the development contains affordable housing units for families or individuals with incomes below eighty percent (80%) of area median income. The bill was filed in the House this week and was presented in the House Local Government-Land Use, Planning and Development Committee but was not voted on. It is likely to be back before the committee for a vote early next week.
- House Bill 794: Allow Schools in All Zoning Districts — designates schools, including charter and private schools, as a permitted use in all zoning districts. The bill passed the House Local Government-Land Use, Planning and Development Committee and is expected to be voted on by the full House early next week.
- House Bill 820: Construction Contract Changes — makes changes to the design-build statutes and makes other changes related to construction contracts. The bill was filed in the House this week and could be considered by the House early next week ahead of the crossover deadline.
- House Bill 821: Award Atty. Fees in Certain Land Use Cases — requires the award of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs to the prevailing party in cases in which the county is a party and found by the court to act against a prevailing party in a manner inconsistent with the provisions of its comprehensive zoning plan. The bill was filed in the House this week and could be considered by the House early next week ahead of the crossover deadline. NCACC recommends you share this legislation with your county attorney(s) for additional feedback.
- House Bill 829: Private Residential Rentals — clarifies that the limits on the ability of a local government to adopt or enforce regulations restricting private residential real property rentals are not limited to regulations under a local government's building code or minimum housing code. The bill was filed in the House this week and could be considered by the House early next week ahead of the crossover deadline.
- House Bill 853: Plan Review & Cert of Occup. Scope Changes — limits the scope of requirement for certificates of occupancy and establishes general requirements for local governments when approving development permit applications. The bill was filed in the House this week and could be considered by the House early next week ahead of the crossover deadline.
Bills of Note
House Bill 7: Protect City Employees From Retaliation
— requires city councils to adopt a binding policy or ordinance to establish a procedure for city employees to report certain improper or illegal conduct. It also requires a review of reports in a timely manner and prohibits retaliation from the city for reporting. While this legislation does not specify counties, NCACC has concerns that changes may be made to include them. The bill has been calendared for a hearing in House Judiciary 3 on Monday.
House Bill 561: Local Confinement Facility Inspection Appeals
— allows a governing body, sheriff or other administrator of a local confinement facility to contest finding of a DHHS report of the facility. Current law only allows a report to be contested by a governing body when DHHS has ordered a corrective action or closure. Please share any concerns you have on this change with NCACC.
House Bill 664: County Service Districts/Early Childhood Ed.
— authorizes counties to establish service districts to finance early education programs. The bill gained preliminary approval by the full House this week and is expected to gain final approval early next week before heading to the Senate for further consideration.
House Bill 717: Abolish Office of County Coroner
— abolishes the office of county coroner across the state. The bill passed the House this week and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
House Bill 721: Counties/Semiannual Assessment Payments
— authorize counties to allow repayment of special assessments in either semiannual or annual installments. The bill also extends the repayment window to 20 years. The bill passed the House Local Government Committee and now moves to the House State Government Committee for further consideration.
House Bill 729: Charter Schools Omnibus
— allows counties to make direct capital appropriations to charter schools and authorizes counties to levy property taxes for this purpose. The bill was filed in the House last week and could receive a hearing next week ahead of crossover. The bill is scheduled to be considered in the House Education K-12 Committee early next week. NCACC wants to know your thoughts on this permissive authority and asks you provide any feedback to NCACC Legislative Counsel Adam Pridemore at email@example.com.
House Bill 797: Delegate Tax Overpayment Refund
— authorizes a county board of commissioners to delegate to the county manager, the county finance officer, or both, the ability to grant a refund of an overpayment of the deed stamp tax. The bill passed the House Finance Committee this week is expected to be voted on by the full House early next week.
House Bill 806: Study Water and Sewer Infrastructure
— directs the NC Department of Environmental Quality and the NC Local Government Commission to study specified matters related to water and sewer infrastructure and report those findings by March 1, 2022. The bill passed the House Local Government-Land Use, Planning and Development Committee and is expected to be voted on by the full House early next week.
House Bill 812: Clarify Remote Meetings During Emergencies
— 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. The bill was filed in the House this week and is scheduled to be heard in the House Local Government Committee next week. NCACC supports this legislation.
House Bill 874: School Calendar Flexibility
— removes all restrictions on local school districts setting public school opening and closing dates. The bill was filed in the House this week and is supported by NCACC.
House Bill 903: School Calendar Flexibility/Statewide
— allows local school districts to set an opening school date of no earlier than August 10 (currently no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26th). The bill was filed in the House this week and is supported by NCACC.
Senate Bill 355: Government Transparency Act of 2021
— adds to the information in a county employee or officer personnel file that is a matter of public record, to include reasons for demotion, dismissal, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position for each county employee. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is scheduled to be for a vote by the full Senate early next week. We encourage you to review the legislation with your county attorney(s) and let your Senator(s) know of any concerns.
Senate Bill 455: Decriminalize Non-Statutory Offenses
— passed the Senate this week. As originally filed, the bill prohibited criminal enforcement of local ordinances (currently a class 3 misdemeanor with a fine of not more than $500) and changed a violation of ordinances to an infraction punishable by no more than a $50 fine. The new version of the bill only prohibits criminal enforcement of certain regulatory ordinances. The bill prohibits creating a criminal penalty for any new ordinance in the first meeting it is introduced and creates a compliance defense for any alleged ordinance violations. The House filed House Bill 738: Recodification of Criminal Laws
last week. That bill convenes a working group of legislators charged with gathering information from stakeholders, including NCACC, to make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding a streamlined, comprehensive, orderly, and principled criminal code that includes all common law, statutory, regulatory, and ordinance crimes. NCACC support House Bill 738 as a more measured approach to this issue.
Senate Bill 473: Enhance Local Gov't Transparency
— makes various changes to statutes to increase local government transparency and accountability surrounding public employees' undue financial gain. The bill passed the Senate this week and now heads to the House for further consideration.
Senate Bill 693: Expediate Child Safety and Permanency
— makes various changes to child custody laws. In particular, section 5 relates to responsibilities of county departments of social services, when juveniles in the custody of social services present at a hospital for mental health treatment. It requires the director of a county department of social services to find request an assessment and appropriate placement for a child in coordination with the LME/MCO. The legislation has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and been referred to Senate Rules, where it will likely be heard next week. We encourage you to review the legislation with your DSS director and let NCACC and your legislators know of any concerns.
The NC Department of Health and Human Services announced this week
that 43% of the state's adult population is fully vaccinated, and one-half is partially vaccinated.
Next week marks the final week for Medicaid beneficiaries to select enrollment
with a health plan for the transition to managed care. Recipients will be automatically enrolled in a plan after May 14.
The US Department of the Treasury today released updated guidance for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA), as well as allocation amounts
for new ERA2 funding included in the American Rescue Plan. Similar to the previous allocation of ERA1, 18 large local governments in North Carolina will receive direct allotments under ERA2. The state will be responsible for administering this rental and utility assistance to other areas of the state. Information and application details are available HERE
With the first allocation of Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the American Rescue Plan expected for counties early next week, the US Department of the Treasury will also post additional information on its website HERE
While counties will receive direct payment of Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from US Treasury, non-entitlement municipalities in North Carolina will receive their allocation via pass-through from the state. The NC League of Municipalities is hosting a call on Tuesday, May 11, to review the steps for these municipalities to receive funds. Registration is available to all; click HERE
for more information.
The NCACC COVID-19 Revenue and Budget Report
(April 2021) reviews how the COVID-19 public health pandemic has impacted primary sources of local government finance over the past year, and how counties have responded through fiscal planning and budgeting.
Registration for NCACC Annual Conference Opens Next Week
The NCACC continues to develop its program for the 114th Annual Conference
, scheduled for August 12-14 in Wilmington. Thank you to our host, New Hanover County, for helping with this highly anticipated event.
Registration for the conference and will open next week. Tickets will also go on sale for events including the County Invitational Golf Tournament and the President's Banquet. A tentative agenda is available HERE
. Click HERE
for more information on contracted room blocks and hotel information.
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. Award applications are due May 14, 2021.