The buzz swirling around the General Assembly this week centered on the anticipation of the Senate's 2021–22 budget. The $25.7 billion budget is expected to be released to the public on Monday, June 21 and approved by the Senate by the end of the week. The news of the long-awaited Senate budget coincides with an announcement the State is expected to have a $6.5 billion revenue surplus
by mid-2023. Revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30 is expected to be almost $2 billion more than anticipated in February. How this influx of cash impacts the planned spending by the House and Senate, or if it drives a wedge between how the Governor and legislative leaders believe the money should be used, is yet to be seen.
While work on the budget continued behind closed doors, various House and Senate committees met and considered legislation impacting counties, including bills on land-use, planning and development and election law changes as outlined below:
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 for discussion only in the House Local Government — Land Use, Planning and Development Committee and did not receive a vote. The bill could receive a vote as early as next week. NCACC recommends you share the bill with your planning department and let your House member(s)
know if you have any concerns.
House Bill 865: Private Commercial Inspection System
— authorizes the North Carolina Officials Qualification Board to certify, register, and regulate private inspectors to conduct inspection of commercial building and structures for compliance with the State Building Code and to issue certificates of compliance with the code. Under the legislation local governments would still issue a certificate of occupancy in reliance on the certificate of compliance and would be released from liability for claims arising out of the certificate of compliance. The bill could receive a vote by the full House as early as next week. NCACC recommends you share the bill with your planning department and let your House member(s)
know if you have any concerns.
Bills of Note
House Bill 64: Government Transparency Act of 2021
— adds to the information in a county employee personnel file that is a matter of public record, to include general description of the reason for demotion, dismissal, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position for each county employee. If a general description of the reasons for these actions is otherwise prohibited by law, the bill requires a notation be made stating, "description of action prohibited by general law". The bill further directs government employers to adopt personnel policies to allow employees to challenge the wording of the general descriptions listed by the employer. The description becomes public upon the later of the expiration of the time period to file an appeal under the employer's appeals process or a final decision being entered in that appeals process. The bill passed Senate Judiciary and Rules committees and heads to the Senate for a floor vote. The bill passed the Senate, however, the House voted not to concur with the Senate version of the bill.
House Bill 344: System Development Fees Update
— makes clarifying changes to the statutes regarding county imposition of system development fees. The bill passed the Senate Rules Committee this week and is expected to be considered by the full Senate early next week.
House Bill 721: Counties/Semiannual Assessment Payments
— authorizes 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 received a favorable report by the House Committee on State Government and was referred to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.
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, which addresses one of NCACC's legislative goals, was signed into law by the Governor this week.
Senate Bill 314: Local Government Assistance Toolkit
— makes changes to the process for incorporation review by the Local Government Commission for municipalities in financial distress. The bill also postpones any change a county makes in April to the method of distribution for sales tax proceeds between counties and municipalities effective the following fiscal year, rather than the upcoming fiscal year. And the legislation sets out new fiscal management education requirements for city and county managers if the local unit meets certain LGC or audit criteria; these education requirements may be fulfilled by the LGC, the School of Government, the NC Community College System, NCACC, NCLM, or another qualified and approved source. The bill has been placed on the Senate calendar next week for a concurrence vote.
Senate Bill 326: Election Integrity Act
— requires completed absentee ballots to be returned to the county board of elections by 5 PM on election day, regardless of postmark on the ballot. Also requires county boards of elections and the State Board of Elections to publish the date of the availability of absentee ballots and the date requests for ballots must be submitted to the board. Finally, the legislation also requires county boards to submit reports submitted absentee ballots. The bill has passed the Senate and now heads to the House for consideration.
Senate Bill 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provision
— adjusts the implementation of the class size requirements for kindergarten during the 2021-2022 school year. The bill passed the House last week, but the Senate did not concur with changes the House made to the bill. The bill now is in conference while the two chambers work to resolve their differences.
Senate Bill 722: Revise Local Gov't Redistricting/Census
— makes various election scheduling changes due to the delayed receipt of census data. The bill delays 2021 municipal elections for certain affected municipalities to 2022. For counties required to redistrict, the bill requires Boards of County Commissioners to revise electoral districts and adopt a resolution containing the new districts on or before November 17, 2021, regardless of the requirement in N.C.G.S. 153A-22(e). The bill has passed both chambers and awaits the Governor's signature.
Senate Bill 725: Prohibit Private Money in Elections Admin.
— prohibits the State Board of Elections, as well as county boards, from accepting donations to administer elections or to employ workers on temporary basis for elections. The bill has passed the Senate and now heads to the House for consideration.
Citing spread of the Delta COVID-19 variant in North Carolina, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services notes the increasing urgency
for vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines are now available to individuals 12 and older across the state, and 51% of adults are fully vaccinated. 41% of the state's population is fully vaccinated.
Materials Available from June 16 NCACC Webinar on ARP
NCACC and NCLM co-hosted an ARP webinar this week focused on technical and accounting requirements for Fiscal Recovery Funds and local governments. Visit HERE
to access slides and other materials from the June 16 webinar.
How is your county making plans for FRF?
NCACC is tracking county activities and investments on its American Rescue Plan
page to share information about how counties are planning and preparing to invest Fiscal Recovery Funds. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
with examples of how your county is making plans for FRF.
Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation for At-Risk Seniors
Senators Tillis, Casey, Leahy and Representatives Cartwright, Fitzpatrick introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation to boost legal services for at risk seniors. The bill would boost federal funding for senior legal hotlines that help protect older Americans from scams and offer services for an array of other legal issues. Click HERE
to read the press release.
Coronavirus FRF and the American Rescue Plan Updates
The Office of Recovery Programs in the US Department of the Treasury released updated Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Fund FAQs
this week. New FAQs in this release include additional guidance on eligible broadband infrastructure expenditures. Treasury also released Compliance and Reporting Guidance
this week for the Fiscal Recovery Funds.
Child Tax Credit Awareness Day
Biden-Harris Administration announces Child Tax Credit Awareness Day on Monday, June 21st to ensure parents know about the American Rescue Plan Act's expansion of the Child Tax Credit. The Administration is urging elected officials and other community partners to help low-income families to use a new Child Tax Credit sign-up tool to receive the monthly payments. Click HERE
to access the fact sheet.