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Legislative Goals and Issues, 2023-24

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​After a lengthy, member-driven process to set Municipal Legislative Goals for the 2023-24 biennium, NCLM has now begun efforts toward achieving these goals. On this page, you will find the Legislative Goals​ and talking points about each​, links to associated bills being considered affecting them, explanations of those bills, as well as a listing of legislative bills having major impact on cities and towns that may not be associated with a specific goal.​

Be sure to utilize these resources as you work to ensure that your voice is heard during this legislative session.







RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE​​​​​​ ​

Create an adequate and permanent funding stream for local infrastructure. 

  • Infrastructure – including roads, water, sewer, stormwater, parks and beaches – is critical to economic development and job creation.

  • Many cities in the state are growing, creating a constant need for investment to keep pace with population growth; many cities and towns also have aging infrastructure that must be replaced.​

  • Creating more permanent funding streams for local infrastructure, such as a dedicated tax source, would allow for better planning to meet needs.​


Expand state transportation funding streams for construction and maintenance for municipal and state-owned secondary roads.

  • ​Current Powell Bill and other state funding is not adequate to address transportation needs, particularly as they affect municipal and state-owned secondary roads.

  • In many cities and towns, major commuting corridors are not receiving the level of investment needed to keep pace with traffic.

  • More investment is needed for these roads if existing residents are to embrace business and residential growth.

Allow municipalities to use local resources and capabilities to expand broadband access in their communities through innovative partnerships.

  • Slow and unreliable internet service threatens educational and professional opportunities, and the economic future of entire communities.

  • Municipalities own existing infrastructure – including dark fiber, towers and electric poles – that could be utilized in innovative partnerships and assist in making broadband service more affordable.

  • Failure to utilize local government assistance and assets will continue to create digital gaps that have real-world consequences for North Carolinians. 

Expand incentives that encourage regionalization of water and sewer, as well as other municipal services, when appropriate.

  • A number of municipal water and sewer systems continue to financially struggle with deferred maintenance needs.

  • These challenges came about largely due to population and job losses in rural areas, leading to an erosion of taxpayer and ratepayer bases.

  • While legislators and municipalities have begun to address these issues with the creation of the Viable Utility Reserve and the use of ARPA funding, state estimates show needs still exceed expenditures by several billion dollars.​​

Legislative Bill Links:

  • HB 259 Appropriations Act: This legislation, coming first from the House, is the state budget bill. The $29.8 billion spending plan includes $1 billion for roads and transportation, along with $1 billion for water and sewer infrastructure across the state.

  • HB 511 Enhance Urban Stormwater Management: This bill specifies that some property owners may be required to install new or increased stormwater controls when a pre-existing development is redeveloped.

  • SB 354 NC TEN: Increases registration fees for electric vehicles and removes a cap on highway use taxes for commercial and recreational vehicles, with the money benefiting transportation funding. 

  • SB 673 Wastewater Regulatory Relief Act: Clarifies language related to system development fees to ensure that local utilities can impose fees that recoup costs to serve new development. ​

HEALTHY FINANCES

Provide local revenue options beyond property tax.

  • Roughly 40 percent of municipal general fund revenue is generated by local property taxes. Cities have little to no authority to raise significant revenue in other ways.

  • A lack of diverse, local tax options can affect economic growth, as well as cause large swings in revenue based on economic changes. 

Expand incentives and funding for local economic development.

  • Funding is simply inadequate in many cities and towns to encourage job growth.

  • State grants and incentives are often targeted in ways that fail to assist the areas in greatest need of job creation.

  • Maintaining or expanding funding for film tax credits, major industrial site development, downtown development and renewable energy tax credits helps cities and towns across the state.​ 

Legislative Bill Links:

  • HB 259 Appropriations Act: This bill makes substantial investments in economic development programs and projects that are a priority for municipalities.

  • SB 581 County and City Sales Tax Exemption: This legislation would replace an annual sales and use tax refund for local governments with an exemption from the tax, allowing the savings to occur as expenditures are made.  ​


VIBRANT COMMUNITIES AND NEIGHBORHOODS

Expand federal and state resources for affordable housing.

  • Housing affordability is a growing problem across North Carolina, affecting cities and towns of all sizes and people across different income levels.

  • Increasingly, the lack of affordable housing acts as a major impediment to business and workforce recruitment.

  • Ongoing state and federal revenue streams to address housing affordability are extremely limited, with much of the burden for solutions left with cities and towns. 

Revitalize vacant and abandoned properties with enhanced legal tools and funding.

  • Abandoned and vacant properties, often the subject of so-called tangled titles, can affect the ability of communities to revitalize areas and improve economic conditions.

  • The abandoned properties, with enhanced legal tools to help heirs clear up title issues and sell properties at market rates, could help address local housing needs.

  • Many towns do not have the funding to adequately address abandoned properties.​

Legislative Bill Links:

  • HB 294 NC Housing Choice Incentive: This bill would take an incentives-based approach to affordable housing by creating a $30 million grant pool for local government infrastructure funding that would be tied to allowing more multi-family housing through zoning changes.

  • HB 612 Expand Criminal Justice Fellows Program: This legislation would expand an existing pilot program statewide to allow for more forgivable loans for those seeking associates degrees in criminal justice-related professions, potentially expanding the pool of people that could fill law enforcement positions. 



ADAPTIVE MUNICIPAL OPERATIONS​

Revise state contracting laws to better protect public entities from the effects of inflation.

  • Labor and materials costs have been rising at a rapid rate, leaving municipalities with few options when project bids and costs exceed expectations.

  • Additional flexibility regarding the contracting process could assist municipalities in protecting taxpayers from inflation and escalating costs.

  • Without contracting law flexibility, projects can be delayed and costs can further increase.​​

Enhance state systems and resources for local law enforcement officer recruitment, training, and retention.

  • Municipalities across the state are facing law enforcement staffing shortages, in many cases severe shortages.

  • State training resources are limited, and the cost of local law enforcement agencies to send recruits and existing officers to NC Justice Academy locations can be prohibitive.

  • Grant writing assistance is one of several options that might provide better access to the large volume of federal law enforcement grant funding that is available.​​​


Legislative Bill Links:

  • ​HB 140 Civilian Traffic Crash InvestigatorsSB 251 Civilian Traffic Investigators: Both of these bills would allow cities to employ civilian investigators to investigate motor vehicle accidents, freeing up sworn law enforcement officers to meet other public safety needs.​​

  • HB 259 Appropriations Act: This legislation, coming first from the House, is the state budget bill. The $29.8 billion spending plan makes substantial investments in public safety, appropriating $20 million to provide direct grants to local law enforcement agencies to support workforce development initiatives. 

  • HB 445 Open Meeting Changes: This bill would allow public officials, including those elected to municipal councils, to attend meetings remotely when that person cannot attend due to a health condition or other unforeseen circumstance. 

  • SB 326 Firefighter Cancer Ins/Alt Crim Rec Check.: This legislation would make permanent the Firefighters' Health Benefits Pilot Program, which provides firefighters with a set benefit upon a diagnosis of certain cancers, funded by the state and through an insurance product. NCLM helped to negotiate the initial program, avoiding costly workers compensation benefits, curbing litigation and providing firefighters with an immediate payment. It also would allow criminal background checks to occur through the county clerk of court or a third-party vendor.   

  • SB 463 Home Inspectors Lic. Mods./Code Qual. Bd.: This legislation would expand programs intended to encourage the training of more building inspectors. 

CORE MUNICIPAL PRINCIPLES

NCLM's Core Municipal Principles, adopted by the Board of Directors and membership, are principles that serve as a guide in efforts to oppose legislative proposals that would act to undermine our cities and towns. ​​

Learn more about the Core Municipal Principles here​



OTHER LEGISLATION TO WATCH

Each year at the NC General Assembly, a number of bills are filed that would have major and often damaging effects on municipal authority. NCLM staff and members typically spend substantial time each session working to stop or lessen the effects of these legislative proposals, or others which have major impact on municipalities but do not fall under the subject matter areas approved as a part of NCLM’s Legislative Goals. Often, these pieces of legislation instead run contrary to the League’s Core Municipal Principles. 

​The bills that follow fit under these definitions:​

  • HB 15 Study Eliminating the Grocery Tax: This bill would create a study committee to examine the effects of eliminating the local sales tax on groceries. 

  • HB 54 Make NC Home Act of 2023: This legislation would require the Department of Commerce to create a public website tracking all local planning, zoning and land-use regulations. 

  • HB 122/SB 299 Reimburse Late Audit Costs with Sales Tax Rev.: This legislation would create a penalty for local governments that are late in submitting annual financial audits. The provisions would allow the Local Government Commission to request that the Secretary of Revenue withhold 150 percent of the cost of an annual audit from sale and use tax distributions for those local governments who fail to meet audit deadlines.​

  • HB 205 Transparent Governance & Integrity ActHB 200 LGC Toolkit III: These bills would require six hours of financial training for local governing elected boards whose cities or towns have been placed on the Local Government Commission’s Unit Assistant List or facing certain other financial circumstances. ​

  • HB 273 Local Government Budget Process: This bill would require additional steps for local governments on the state Unit Assistance List when they adopt annual budgets, including an additional public hearing and written notice to all property owners when the budget includes a property tax increase. 

  • HB 332/SB275 Streamline Comm./Multifam. Bldg. Plan Review: This bill would create a so-called shot clock of 21 days for commercial and multi-family building reviews. 

  • HB 378 Firefighters Criminal History Record Checks: This legislation would shift a recent statutory changes so that a criminal background check of firefighters would only have to occur upon a job offer, rather than for all applicants. The background check could take place through the N.C. Department of Public Safety or a third party vendor. 

  • HB 409 Regulation of Accessory Dwelling Units:This bill requires local governments to allow for the development of at least one ADU, or in-law suite, which conforms to the State Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings for each detached single-family dwelling in areas zoned for residential use. 

  • HB 474 Facilitate Small Housing: The bill is another piece of legislation that would mandate accessory dwelling units, or in-law suites, in all areas zoned for residential use, and even mixed-use residential. It does define the structures as those no greater than 800 square feet. 

  • HB 488/SB 378 Code Council Reorg. And Var. Code Amend.​: This bill separates the Residential Building Code into its own code volume and establishes a new council to govern the residential code. It would also affect local pavement design standards, increase permit exemption building thresholds, and include triplex and quadplexes in the Residential Building Code.​

  • HB 537 Workforce Housing Act: This legislation would preempt local zoning decisions by requiring multifamily housing developments to be built in zoning districts designated as “highway business, business office, and general business, or similar classifications.” It also would not allow building design standards to be required for such developments on those properties, but it would dedicate $100 million to a new home loan program and $35 million to the state’s Workforce Housing Program.

  • HB 562 Addressing the Workforce Housing Crisis: Similar to SB 317, this legislation would create “workforce housing developments" that would be allowed to bypass substantial local zoning and land-use regulations in exchange for selling only to owners making no more than 100 percent area median income (AMI), with 50 percent of the developments set aside for those making 80 percent or less of AMI. 

  • HB 589/SB 534 Protect Whistleblower LEOs from Retaliation: This legislation, intended to protect law enforcement officers from retaliation from whistleblowers, has the potential to protect officers involved in wrongdoing from firing by invoking the whistleblower protections. 

  • HB 628 Amend On-Site Wastewater/Environment Statutes: This legislation, among other measures,  would prohibit cities from requiring property owners to connect to a water or sewer system under certain circumstances, including when costs exceed other alternatives.

  • HB 632 Rural Broadband Transformation Act: This legislation, among other provisions, would allow cities to lease infrastructure to private internet service providers to enhance that service.

  • HB 799 Local Government Audits: This bill would have the Local Government Commission create a certified pool of accountants to be used by municipalities for their annual audits, require sealed bids for those audits and provide funding to regional Councils of Governments to provide accounting services.

  • HB 810 Special Separation Allowance: This legislation would create an alternative for law enforcement officers to receive their special separation allowance upon retirement. 

  • SB 92 Expand Circuit Breaker Property Tax Benefit: This bill would expand who can qualify for the homestead circuit breaker property tax deferment, eliminating age and disability requirements and making it solely income based. 

  • SB 290 Short Term Rentals: This legislation makes clear that certain local ordinances affecting short-term rentals are permissible while imposing state occupancy limits on these rentals. 

  • SB 317 Addressing the Workforce Housing Crisis: This legislation would establish a statewide mandate to allow “workforce housing developments” not subject to local planning and zoning regulations. Housing developments would meet the criteria by offering set asides of 20 percent for the total housing stock for buyers who meet certain income thresholds, but those buyers could sell within a year. 

  • SB 408 Property Tax Modifications: This bill would enable county commissions to postpone revaluations, which in the case of increased property values, will reduce revenues available to the municipalities in those counties. Cities would have no recourse if the county took that vote. 

  • SB 515 Water and Sewer Affordability Act: This bill would require additional steps for local utilities when they charge customers outside their jurisdictions higher rates than users inside the jurisdiction. As originally proposed, the bill would have capped those outside rates under some circumstances. 

  • SB 667 Regulation of Short-Term Rentals: This bill would place some restrictions on local regulation of short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, but would allow a permitting process, vehicle limits and occupancy restrictions.

  • SB 675 Land Use Clarifications and Changes: This legislation would eliminate municipal extra-territorial jurisdiction, as well as allow schools to be constructed in any commercial zoned area. ​​


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