NCLM Southern City, Volume 73, Issue 4 2023

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE n recent years, state lawmakers haven’t exactly left Raleigh with a lot of pomp, circumstance, and finality. Instead, they have typically concluded virtually all of their business at some point and time, but then left the door open for a return with readjournment dates that sometimes result in actual legislating but more often open and close without any action. This year, that “mostly concluded” date came on October 25. As previously mentioned in these pages, the expectation was that a final budget agreement would be good for cities and towns, even as NLCM and its members returned to some familiar legislative battles over local land-use authority after something of a hiatus during the pandemic years. That state budget was finally agreed on in early October, and as thought, it once again treated municipalities well regarding local infrastructure investments. Still, a handful of policy provisions were not so welcome. The $30 billion state spending plan, which Gov. Roy Cooper allowed to become law but without his signature, includes over $3 billion in local infrastructure spending. Among those appropriations are individual earmarks of $1.9 billion for drinking water and wastewater and an increase of $15.5 million for street funding under the Powell Bill in each year of the two-year budget, bringing the total to $185.8 million in the second year. Other major funding items include: • $30 million to the Disaster Relief and Mitigation Fund and the Transportation Infrastructure Resiliency Funds. • $107.8 million for industrial megasite readiness and preparation. • $10 million for local governments to evaluate areas of less than 1,000 acres for industrial development sites. • $10 million to local governments for coastal storm damage mitigation. • $30 million for local and state parks and beach access, with another $12.5 million going to the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to provide matching grants for park facilities for persons with disabilities. • $17.5 million for trail development programs. • $35 million to the Housing Finance Agency for multi-family affordable housing. I Legislative Session Concludes... Mostly SCOTT MOONEYHAM Director of Political Communication and Coordination The legislation also makes changes to the Criminal Justice Fellows Program in an effort to increase the number of graduates available for law enforcement jobs, as well as provides the NC Police Chiefs Association with some funding to assist local agencies with employee performance and wellness programs. Concerning policy provisions include one that will subject local governments to oversight by the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Affairs, a legislative oversight body traditionally focused on state operations and one that would prevent retail plastic bag bans or fees, as well as penalties for retailers due to shopping carts being taken and discarded away from retail sites. Also troubling were some provisions affecting local zoning authority in some specific circumstances in Dare and Wake counties. Over the course of the legislative session, NCLM had pushed back successfully on statewide bills undermining local zoning authority. They included efforts by homebuilders and other groups to utilize a national housing affordability crisis to upend local land-use regulation and planning in a variety of bills. Specifically, bills would have eliminated extraterritorial jurisdiction, abolished single-family-only zoning, and required that accessory dwelling units, or in-law suites, be allowed in all residential neighborhoods. In each, the efforts of NCLM members and staff worked to stop the legislation. To some degree, that was because NCLM was prepared for these fights. A report on housing, produced in association with the NC County Commissioners Association, used real data from local planning and building inspection departments to show how much growing jurisdictions across the state are doing to address housing and increase density in areas where appropriate. It also demonstrated the efforts that local governments are undertaking to improve inspection processes and included recommendations for similar procedures to duplicate those efforts. But on another front, local elections, legislation was approved that undetermined local decisions on election districts and whether elections would be held on a partisan or non-partisan basis. Although these bills affected only a few jurisdictions, the use of local legislation to accomplish what has proven difficult through statewide legislation is a concern that NCLM will need to monitor in the future. [The] state budget was finally agreed on in early October, and as thought, it once again treated municipalities well regarding local infrastructure investments. Still, a handful of policy provisions were not so welcome. SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 4 2023 14