NCGA 2018 Wrap Up: Abbreviated Short Session Produces Fewer Bills but More Proposed Constitutional Amendments

By Whitney Campbell Christensen

The 2018 Short Session of the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned in late June and can boast something that many Short Sessions cannot: that it was genuinely short.

What else made it memorable?  An unusual adjournment resolution, a pre-negotiated state budget, a renewed interest in amending the North Carolina Constitution, campaign pressures, a record-breaking protest on opening day and milk jokes… lots of milk jokes.

Short Session by the Numbers

The intended purpose of the Short Session is to make modifications to the two-year state budget enacted during the previous Long Session based on changes in revenue projections, new priorities, and unforeseen events such as natural disasters.  Legislation unrelated to appropriations may also advance during Short Sessions, but it is subject to a very restrictive body of eligibility rules imposed by each chamber.

The practical impact of these rules is that very few bills with statewide implications are introduced during a typical Short Session and only a small percentage of the bills introduced during the previous year’s Long Session can be considered.  Below is a quick look at the 2018 Short Session by the numbers.

6 – The number of weeks the 2018 Short Session lasted

129 – The number of bills enacted

1922 – The number of bills filed during the biennium (The Long Session and the Short Session occurring between each General Assembly election)

$23.9 billion – The amount of total spending in the Fiscal Year 2018-19 state budget

2% – The minimum state employee pay raise in the budget

6.5% – The average pay raise for teachers in the budget

6 – The number of North Carolina Constitutional amendments legislators voted to put on the ballot for this fall’s general election.

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Sports Gambling In NC? What Local Governments Should Be Considering

By Brian Meyer

As most people reading this blog have probably heard, the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided the matter of Murphy v. NCAA.  In short, the Court ruled that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) which essentially prohibited the states from authorizing betting on sports, is unconstitutional.  What followed was largely a reaction that legalized sports gambling was on the way across the country, the value of sports franchises were increasing overnight, and gambling chaos would ensue.  But before you start sizing up the over/under line on your son’s or daughter’s little league game, the reality is that while this ruling does open the door in the future don’t expect legal sports gambling to invade North Carolina overnight.  While a few states will likely move quickly to establish sports gambling most states will need time to study the impacts.  After all, at least as of today, it is still illegal in North Carolina (See NCGS 14-292).  The Court’s decision also arguably leaves room for Congress to step in and attempt to regulate sports gambling on its own accord (or at the request of one of the major professional sports leagues).

But if the day comes that sports gambling is authorized in North Carolina what should local governments be preparing for?

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Leaping the Digital Divide: Policies and Partnerships to Improve Broadband Access Across NC

By Erin Wynia and Joanne Hovis

 The article that follows is pulled from excerpts of a policy paper initiated, published and co-authored by the N.C. League of Municipalities (NCLM) as part of an effort to encourage statewide policy that better enables public-private partnerships that create better broadband access in communities across our state. NCLM views this effort as crucial to ensuring that all North Carolinians have the 21st century infrastructure they need to thrive economically and to make their communities attractive places to live and work. You can find the full report, with a range of pullout information and a forward from Brookings Institution Fellow Blair Levin, at www.nclm.org/broadband.

 The Case for Government Involvement in Broadband

One of the primary functions of government is to build the infrastructure networks people need to sustain their lives and livelihoods. Today, high-speed broadband joins transportation, electric, water, and natural gas networks as a component of basic infrastructure services that Americans expect to be provided. High-speed internet service is the number-one amenity sought by multi-family residents, and the number-two amenity for single-family residents, according to a recent study. Local governments, in particular, can and should play a role in creating the infrastructure networks to provide this service, which are often too costly for private sector entities to build solely on their own.

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Report Provides Snapshot Of NC State Government Attorneys’ Activities

By Al Benshoff

Lawyers employed by the state of North Carolina should be aware of the new report to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee by the Program Evaluation Division, Legislative Services Office, General Assembly (called “PED” in this post).  The report makes no recommendations about the use of lawyers in State government or staffing levels.  It does provide the legislature with baseline information about the use of in-house counsel, outside counsel and the allocation of lawyers to departments.  The report is called “The System of Attorney Allocation in North Carolina State Government is Decentralized Final Report to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee” and is available here.

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The Start of the Legislative Session

By Skye David

On May 16, the North Carolina General Assembly will return to Jones Street, and the 2018 short session will convene. Legislators and staff have been publicly stating that this session will be a quick six-week session, and then legislators will be out in time to fundraise and campaign for the November midterms. While this seems promising for most, those who are familiar with General Assembly happenings will proudly inform you that this is what legislators say every year.

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Raising the Age Raises Questions. This CLE Has Answers.

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By Peggy Nicholson

Over the next two years, North Carolina’s juvenile justice system will undergo some of the most significant changes in its history. Chief among these changes is the implementation of Raise the Age legislation (Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act) that will expand juvenile court jurisdiction to include most 16- and 17-year olds by December 2019. While raising the age will result in better outcomes for children, it will also result in many changes to the juvenile system and create a ripple effect across the state’s courts and other youth-serving systems.

On May 10, the Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section will host a CLE at the Bar Center in Cary to answer many of the questions about Raise the Age and discuss some of the wide-ranging impacts. This CLE, entitled “Raise the Age: A New Era for Juvenile Justice in North Carolina,” is intended not just for attorneys who practice in juvenile court, but for any attorney whose practice might be impacted by the new legislation, including those practicing in the areas of criminal justice, education, child welfare, mental health, or government.

Sessions include:

  • An overview of North Carolina’s juvenile justice system including a summary of the recently passed Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act.
  • A panel of court actors from one jurisdiction, including a defense attorney, prosecutor, and two judges, discussing how Raise the Age will impact them at the local level and how they are preparing for those impacts.
  • A panel of attorneys from different youth-focused systems (child welfare, education, and mental health) discussing how changes to juvenile court will impact their areas of practice.
  • An overview of school-justice partnerships, local agreements aimed at reducing the number of school-based court referrals, which are being expanded across the state pursuant to the new Raise the Age law.
  • An ethics session on representing children in adult court, which is especially important since children age 16 and older will continue to go to adult court until December 2019 and, even after that, will still be in adult court in certain circumstances.

These sessions are intended to be informative to both juvenile court novices and seasoned child advocates and will provide opportunities for questions and discussion. Attendees will receive 5.5 hours of CLE credit, including 1 ethics hour.

The Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section will also hold its annual meeting on May 10 and invites CLE participants to attend. During the meeting, the Section will announce the inaugural recipient of The Children’s Champion Award, which is bestowed upon a member of the Section who is a true champion for North Carolina children and youth.

Interested attorneys and advocates should register soon and get 10 percent off the registration fee (until May 3). Click here to register or for more information.

 

Jack of All Trades: Embrace It

By Aimee Scotton

It’s an oft-repeated refrain when referring to government work — Jack of all trades; Master of none.  Sadly, it’s a cliché because it’s true.  I’ve been the in-house county attorney for Randolph County for 21 years now.  Twenty-one years.  You’d think that after 21 years, I’d have this county attorney thing down pat, but that’s not the case.  Instead, I’ve come to realize that I will never have this county attorney thing down pat because this county attorney thing is a constantly changing animal.  No day is ever the same as the day before.  Even after 21 years, there is not a week where something doesn’t pop up that I’ve never encountered before.

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An Untapped Source of Savings for State and Local Government Owners of Property

By Drew ErteschikJ.M. Durnovich and Cosmo Zinkow

Introduction

It is almost unheard of that a state or local government entity is able to tap into a new source of cost savings that has not already been tapped.  Fortunately, however, as a result of a recent administrative ruling from the North Carolina Department of Administration, state and local government entities are now able to pursue millions of dollars in taxpayer savings.

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Coming Soon To a Street Near You: 50-Foot Wireless Cell Phone Towers

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By Al Benshoff

With the adoption of H.B. 310 (S.L. 2017-159), all municipalities and the N.C. Department of Transportation must allow the location of “small wireless facilities” in the public rights-of-way.  Here are a few FAQs about the application of the law.

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‘A Very Happy Accident’: Tom McCormick On His 40-Year Career With the City Of Raleigh

By Ben A. Mount

In September of 2017, Thomas A. McCormick, Jr., announced his plan to retire as the City Attorney for the City of Raleigh after serving in that position for over 40 years.  I’m one of many lawyers who has had the opportunity to work with Tom, and I’m sure there are many more who would be interested in learning about Tom’s career in public service.  For that reason, instead of writing an article about the law, I decided to conduct a brief “career overview” interview with Tom McCormick to share with my colleagues in the NCBA.  Enjoy!

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