PENC Legislative Updates

 Legisltative Update November 2018 (12/6/2018) 
   

Legislative Update | November 2018 + Session

PENC

 

Summary // Overview

Three weeks after the NC general election, both chambers of the General Assembly convened to continue the 2018 long session on November 27 as scheduled this summer when lawmakers adjourned from the regular long session. High priority for the special session are the following issues: Hurricanes Florence and Michael relief appropriations, and implementing language for the Voter ID constitutional amendment approved by voters. While other issues popped up naturally, these two issues took up the majority of legislators’ time this week and throughout November. Below you’ll find updates on legislative committees that have met in November of relevance to PENC, bills to watch, legislative committees currently scheduled, and articles of interest.

 

Committee Updates
11/26/18: Joint Select Committee on Storm-Related River Debris/Damage in North Carolina

This committee heard reports on stream and river damages as a consequence of Hurricanes Florence and Michael. Director Sprayberry (NCEM/NCORR) presented on the intervals of rainfall, and the volume of water in rivers/streams. Since Hurricane Fran in 1996, North Carolina has experienced rainfall events equal to or greater than a 100-year frequency interval every five years. Martin Doyle, a professor at Duke University, presented more details on river hydraulics and flooding. Because North Carolina has seen major hurricane-related flood damage on average every six years, Mr. Doyle strongly recommends an approach of mitigation and planning to ensure the state is prepared for the next disaster.

 

What this means: Mr. Doyle’s recommendation to focus on mitigation and planning, if taken under advisement, presents an opportunity for PENC to plug into the transportation planning conversation.

 

11/08/2018 Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee

This committee primarily focused on damage reporting and relief efforts for Hurricanes Florence and Michael. Between the two storms, a total of 2,104 roads were closed; 49 remained closed as of 11/1. Sites damaged during Florence qualify for both FEMA + FHWA reimbursement funding, while damages that occurred as a result of Michael do not fully meet reimbursement requirements. A total of 2,642 routes qualify for FEMA reimbursement, while 853 qualify for FHWA funds. Preliminary cost reports indicate a total of $260M from the storms. The state is expected to recoup $178.1M from both FEMA + FHWA. Costs to the DMV to date sits at $81M, according to reports from Emily McGraw, NCDOT State Maintenance Engineer. Meanwhile, the costs of hurricane relief on Wilmington continue to rise; recovery efforts total $22M.

 

The committee also heard reports from Torre Jessup, NCDMV Commissioner, who focused on the REAL ID process and roadblocks residents face while visiting one of the 113 drivers license offices across the state.

 

Frank Winn, NCDIT Chief Information Officer outlined the State Automated Driver License System (SADLS) and walked the committee through the replacement process.

 

Jason Orthner, P.E., walked the committee through the Carolina Connector (CCX) Intermodal Terminal plans. CCX represents a shift from hub and spoke operations to scheduled railroading, which accomplishes the state’s objectives: serves Eastern NC and the Triangle, provides shipper savings, adds jobs and economic development opportunities. Projected costs for the project include both terminal costs and operational costs: $118.1M to NCDOT for engineering and construction, $40M to CSX for land acquisition and development costs, $54M to CSX paid over the course of nine years for operations.

 

The NCDOT was selected as one of 10 groups for a pilot program testing drone usage for package deliveries. Basil Yap, NCDOT Aviation Division UAS Program Manager co-presented with an industry representative about the pilot program. The state will look at two delivery systems, rural and urban, and will test, monitor and make recommendations about future use cases.

 

What this means: Continued support from PENC is critical to streamlined and fast-tracked hurricane recovery efforts, while ensuring the safety of volunteers, state employees, and citizens.

 

11/8/2018 House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions

Meeting on November 8, 2018, this committee focused on three major items: state transportation system comparisons, updates on streamlining environmental regulations process, and autonomous vehicles/platooning.

 

Chris Werner, NCDOT Director of Technical Services, focused his time with the committee on reducing project delivery time.

 

When considering autonomous vehicles, presentations to the committee focused on connected autonomous vehicles to real-world applications. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and affecting approaches to transportation and infrastructure development. While the Triangle Expressway was one of ten sites chosen for future research, on October 4 the federal government denounced all ten sites, fearing civil lawsuits over the chosen sites. North Carolina extended its continued support of the research. Susan Alt, VP of Public Affairs for Volvo, spoke on the need for governmental support on standards, rules, and regulations. Alt reported on Volvo efforts to expand truck platoon autonomous vehicle testing to I-40 in addition to I-540.

 

Legislation Watch: Committee Chair Rep. John Torbett asked members to suggest draft bills that should receive recommendation in the long session beginning in January. Two legislators came forward with legislative agendas: Rep. McNeill would like legislation addressing drivers who ignore road barricades set up for dangerous conditions; Rep. Torbett would like legislation addressing electric scooter rentals from companies like Bird and Lime.

 

What this means: Regulations and policies on autonomous vehicles are an issue area to watch, as PENC has the expertise needed to guide and affect infrastructure development. Substantial AV legislation was passed in 2017 and at the time Rep. Torbett shared that continual updates and future legislation would likely be needed.

 

Bills to Watch

  •  
  • S821: Sunset Unconstitutional Boards & Commissions (LINK [webservices.ncleg.net]).
  •  This bill would repeal statutes creating: child care commission, clean water management trust fund board of trustees; NC parks and rec authority; private protective services board; rural infrastructure authority; state building commission.
  •  
  •  
  • S823: Hurricane Florence/Supplemental Act (LINK [ncleg.net]).
  •  This bill appropriates approximately $299 million for disaster relief. The primary allocations go toward agricultural needs.
  •  
  •  
  • Interior Design Profession Act. The American Society of Interior Designers has begun stakeholder
  •  discussions in advance of the 2019 long session where they plan to pursue passage of this bill. PENC, AIA/NC, ACEC/NC, and CAGC opposed this bill in 2017 and 2018. If you are interested in participating in the discussion and review of the newly proposed bill
  •  language and on this issue in 2019, please email PENC lobbyists Laurie Onorio (ljo@walkwest.com)
  •  and David Collins (dcollins@walkwest.com)
  •  
  •  

 

Looking Forward

Both chambers resume the special session on Monday. While Voter ID has made its way through the Senate, the House will take it up next week. The same holds true for hurricane relief appropriations. The following committees of interest to PENC are currently scheduled to meet in the coming weeks:

 

  •  
  • Mon, Dec 3, 8:30am: House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long-Term
  •  Funding Solutions on-sight at the Global TransPark in Kinston. The agenda and some documents and presentations scheduled for this meeting
  • can
  •  be found here [ncleg.net].
  •  
  •  
  • Thurs, Dec 6, 9:00am: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Transportation. Meeting materials
  •  are not yet available online, but we’ll monitor that committee for relevant updates.
  •  
  •  
  • Wed, Dec 12, 10:00am: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Capital Improvements. Meeting
  •  materials are not yet available online, but we’ll monitor that committee for relevant updates.
  •  
  •  
  • Thurs, Dec 13, 10:00am: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Capital Improvements. Meeting
  •  materials are not yet available online, but we’ll monitor that committee for relevant updates.
  •  
  •  
  • Mon, Jan 7, 9:00am: House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long-Term
  •  Funding Solutions on-sight at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC
  •  

 

Articles of Interest

 ignored for decades ways to limit Neuse River flooding [wral.com]


 PENC Legislative Update (7/12/2018) 
   

PENC Legislative Updates

End of Session Summary

 

The 2018 legislative short session adjourned on Friday, June 29 after just a month and a half of legislative work as legislators wished to wrap up in advance of the 4th of July holiday and get on the campaign trail. The North Carolina General Assembly operates in biennium sessions with a long session in the first (or odd numbered year) and a short session in the second year (occurring in the even numbered year). The long session was held in 2017, which was the second shortest long session since 1973, according to a Senate press release and the short session was this 2018 session which began May 16.

 

Once session began, legislators were hard at work passing public bills, which are bills that have statewide affect, for the first month. These bills are also subject to Gubernatorial action. Some of the most important public bills passed include the 2018 appropriations act, which made adjustments to the two-year budget passed in 2018, a bill making technical corrections to the state budget, House Bill 463, S711- NC Farm Act of 2018, S325- The Uniform and Expanded Early Voting Act, and S758- Build NC Bond Act- all of which were signed into law by the end of the legislative session.

 

Public bills were the immediate focus because while the legislature is in session, the Governor has 10 days to sign, veto, or not sign public bills. If he does not sign or veto a bill, it becomes law without his signature. Once the legislature adjourns, the Governor has 30 days to take action on any bills that have been sent to him. Knowing Governor Cooper was going to veto a number of bills, lawmakers wanted to keep his timeframe to the 10-day period so they could override select bills without having to come back for a special session. In order to keep up with the hopeful timeline of adjourning near the end of June, a self-imposed deadline for public bills was set so vetoes would happen by the time in which the legislature hoped to adjourn, which gave lawmakers time to override vetoes as necessary.

 

The largest (and perhaps the most controversial) bill tackled by the General Assembly this year was the technical corrections bill to the state budget. This bill contained a number of provisions such as a fix to funding of the Durham/Chapel Hill light rail project, state trooper training, and charter schools, it was not passed without an impressive amount of protest from Democrats and attention from the media. Specifically, bipartisan frustration was expressed as a result of the way in which the language of the light rail project technical corrections was drafted. The language originally drafted for the technical corrections prompted ambiguity about the outcome of the project; however, these ambiguities were eventually corrected in the final version of the technical corrections. 

 

The controversy surrounding the budget was not necessarily sparked by the contents of the changes but instead the procedure of its passing. A feature of this legislative short session that sparked criticism from legislators and citizens of North Carolina was the unique process Speaker of the House Tim Moore and President of the Senate Phil Berger used to pass the state’s budget. This parliamentary move used by Republican legislative leaders included making the budget an amendment on a conference committee report which had already passed approval in both the House and the Senate. This move prevents any amendments being offered or debated, leaving all 170 members of the General Assembly with only the option to vote “yes” or “no” on the budget. After a 66-44 vote, the budget made its way to the desk of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, which he then chose to veto. The Senate and House were quick to override the veto with a 34-14 vote in the Senate, and a 73-44 vote in the House. This was 11th override of Cooper's 14 vetoes since he took office in early 2017.

 

Aside from the heated debate over the budget process, other relevant bills taken up this session were S758- Build NC Bond Act, H948- Building Code Regulatory Reform, H1054- UNC Capital Projects, H972- Water Safety Act, H1029- DOT/DMV Legislative Requests, H974- Reform Financial Reporting for OLBs. The Build NC Bond Act was passed by the General Assembly on June 14 and signed into law by Governor Cooper on June 20. See Governor Cooper’s remarks on the bill here in his press release. Like the Build NC Bond Act, both Building Code Regulatory Reform and UNC Capital Projects were passed by legislators and signed into law by Governor Cooper. Kent Jackson and the Building Code action group watched the activity of H948- Building Code Regulatory Reform. Preliminary discussions on the Building Code Regulatory Reform Bill were focused on expanding the definition of a “system”- but this definition expansion did not make it into the final piece of legislation. We will continue to monitor this issue and the bills filed in the 2019 legislative session for this exact or similar language in order to secure a position for PENC to provide input in defining “system” in the state’s building code manual.

 

 However, House Bill 1029- DOT/DMV Legislative Requests currently sits in a conference committee which was formed following a non-concurrence vote on June 14. Similarly, House Bill 974- Reform Financial Reporting for OLBs was stuck in House Regulatory Reform committee, and House Bill 972- Water Safety Act was not heard in House Environmental committee and therefore both bills were unable to move to either chamber for a vote.  Because these three bills were not passed by the General Assembly before their adjournment on June 29, they are no longer eligible for the next legislative session. An important bill that was not taken up this short session was H590- Interior Design Profession Act. The bill was referred to Senate Rules during June of the 2017 long session and much to our excitement, was not calendared in the committee throughout the entire 2018 short session. The language from House Bill 590 will now have to be filed again at the start of the 2019 legislative session if the supporting stakeholders still wish to see the changes through. When each long session begins, no previous bills remain. All bills that were not passed in the previous short and long session must be filed again if the stakeholders chose to do so.

 

The final two weeks of legislative action were filled with local bills (those that affect less than 15 counties), appointment confirmations, and constitutional amendments. These bills are not subject to Gubernatorial action and therefore lawmakers had time to take them up while awaiting action on public bills. Some of the most controversial constitutional amendments debated during the final two weeks were H1092- Constitutional Amendment to Require photo ID to Vote, S75- Constitutional Amendment Max Income Tax Rate of 5.5%, and S677- Protect Right to Hunt and Fish. You can read more about these amendments and other amendments here.

 

 The North Carolina General Assembly 2018 adjournment resolution that was signed on June 29 to end session states that the legislators will reconvene on Tuesday, November 27th, 2018. You can find that document here. The adjournment resolution uses the restriction established in last year’s adjournment to give the General Assembly the bandwidth to address whatever issue they feel is necessary following the November elections. The only restriction on legislators once they return in November is that they will not be able to file new bills.

 

The upcoming 2019 legislative long session will look a bit different following the November 2018 general elections and the new redistricting that has taken place and the November session. Many predict that Democrats will take over seats that Republicans currently hold, and that will definitely have an effect on the political composition of the state legislature. Be on the lookout for an update following the November general election and our outlook on the 2019 as we get closer to start of the new biennium.

 

If you are interested in reading last week’s PENC Action Group Updates, you can find it here.

 

Please see below for how to get involved in PENC Action Groups.

 

 

PENC Action Groups:

Resource Stewardship | Contact: Bob Via

Regulatory Reform | Contact: Kendra Parrish

Buildings Infrastructure and Sustainability | Contact: Sean Gleason

Transportation Infrastructure & Sustainability | Contact: David Charters

Water/Wastewater Infrastructure & Sustainability | Contact: Monroe Huckaby

 

 

 

PENC Legislative Update- March 2018: 

As of February 13th, the NC General Assembly ended the special session that began on February 7th. Lawmakers considered few topics aside from GenX during this week-long return to Raleigh. Democrats and Republicans are at odds over funding to research the effects of GenX in the state’s water, and you can read more about the funding debate in this February 9th article from The News & Observer. The GenX bill (HB189) currently sits in the House Select Committee on NC River Quality, a committee that last met on February 21st to hear from the Department of Environmental Quality, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, research representatives from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and other special guests. No distinct progress on the bill was made. The agenda for the February 21st meeting can be found here. In addition to GenX, an omnibus bill (HB90) which included provisions for class size reductions, changes to election laws, and the establishment of a mitigation fund for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was passed by lawmakers. House Bill 90 is now awaiting Governor Cooper’s approval. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been a topic of controversy for over six weeks of negotiations surrounding a deal that would bring $57.8 million to North Carolina. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project has morphed from an agreement between the pipeline partnership and the state to a deal between the partnership and Gov. Roy Cooper. You can read more about NC’s role in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline here.

Since the end of session, interim committees continue to meet. The House Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform met on February 15th to review reports and discuss the implementation process of the newly established and ongoing reforms of the state’s building code standards. Committee discussion surrounded this presentation by Mark Carpenter and Robert Privott of the North Carolina Home Builders Association. The committee will meet again March 28th at 1pm, although an agenda has not yet been released. 

As lawmakers continue to consider water contamination and public health, the U.S. Coast Guard reported on March 5 that multiple containers were knocked off board a cargo ship in the recent high winds and rough seas of the North Carolina Outer Banks near Nags Head. The containers dumped nearly 6,000 pounds of sulfuric acid into the water. You can read more about the spill here. What affects this could have on the water quality discussion in North Carolina have yet to be seen.

The Engineers PAC (EPAC) of North Carolina invites the engineering community to a luncheon with Senator Berger, President Pro Tempore, on Tuesday, March 27th at the Dorothy and Roy Alumni Center, NCSU Centennial Campus in Raleigh. Registration begins at 11:30am with lunch to follow at noon. The cost is $35, which includes the cost of the meal and you can register on the epac website here. In addition to the luncheon with Senator Berger, EPAC is also representing engineers at a variety of other political events for political candidates. If you are interested in attending any of these events or in being involved in EPAC, please contact Pam Townsend at Pam.Townsend@wsp.com.


 Legislative Update 4-2-2018 (4/30/2018) 
   
PENC Action Group Communications Update 4/2/2018

Meetings with Lawmakers

Leaders from PENC’s Buildings Infrastructure & Sustainability Action Group met with lawmakers at the North Carolina General Assembly last week in conjunction with a legislative meeting of the Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform. In addition to attending the committee meeting, one-on-one meetings were held with committee chairman Rep. Mark Brody (R-Union), Rep. Larry Potts (R-Davidson), Rep. Rena Turner (R-Iredell), and Rep. Larry Strickland (R-Johnston). Reps. Brody and Potts are both contractors. These meetings gave PENC the opportunity educate legislators on PENC and the Buildings I&S Action Group, allowed legislators to give PENC members insight on the issues they’re facing or trying to solve, and continues PENC relationship-building efforts at the NCGA.


The Select Committee is reviewing legislative proposals to recommend to the full legislature during the 2018 short session that begins in May and are expected to be filed as bill by the committee chairs.


EPAC Luncheon with Senator Phil Berger, president of the NC Senate

March 26, Engineers PAC (EPAC) hosted a luncheon for the full engineering committee with Senator Phil Berger, the president of the North Carolina Senate. Berger shared an overview of the successes from the North Carolina General Assembly during his time as President, beginning in January 2011. Leaders and members across the engineering community, including EPAC, PENC, ACEC/NC, ASCE, NCSE and NC State’s College of Engineering attended the lunch at the Dorothy & Roy Park Alumni Center on Centennial Campus. Senator Berger encouraged engineers to be willing to talk about the good things you do. Lawmakers value the opinions of engineers and Senator Berger encouraged the audience to get to know their local elected officials and to get engaged. He also spent a lot of time answering questions during Q&A and talking one-on-one with attendees before and after the event. EPAC is excited to continue hosting events with lawmakers so please be on the lookout for the next event.


EPAC is the political action committee for engineers and operates off of personal contributions in order to participate in North Carolina’s political process by contributing to campaigns of candidates who value responsible engineering across all sectors. Please consider a personal contribution to EPAC. It’s a great way to engage in the critical election cycle of 2018 without having to engage independently with candidates. To contribute or find out more, visit https://penc.org/epac.


Other news of interest related to action groups can be found here.


Transportation Infrastructure & Sustainability

Regulatory Reform

Water/Wastewater Infrastructure & Sustainability

Buildings Infrastructure & Sustainability

Resource Stewardship

Environmental

Transportation Infrastructure & Sustainability:

Short Session Proposals

Resources: Meeting Materials

Lawmakers on the House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions on Monday (4/2) discussed seven proposals for changes to transportation laws that could be brought before the General Assembly during the short session. One proposal would allow the Department of Transportation to waive environmental documents required by the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act for airports that are acquiring 40 acres or less of property for future development in counties where the population is greater than 1 million people, and the airport has a total annual enplanement of over 20 million passengers. Those requirements under the proposal would only impact the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Other proposals would clarify that the net proceeds from the sale of land or facilities that were purchased using the State Highway Fund would be deposited into the State Highway Fund, and authorize the NCDOT to acquire replacement right-of-way for a utility owner instead of reimbursing them the cost of relocating the utilities. Another proposal would effectively remove a salary cap on NCDOT engineer technician positions in the Highway Division. The proposal would allow the Secretary of Transportation to exempt positions from portions of the State Human Resources Act. By exempting the positions, the NCDOT would be able to use its own recruiting methods and salary scale. The exemption could be applied to current engineers and future hires. "It came to our attention that there was one category of employee ... that in some point in time in the department's history had gotten an arbitrary cap put on their wage earning ability," committee chairman Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, said on Monday. "What we are doing now is pretty much removing that, as I understand." He noted that the state is experiencing a shortage in those positions which has contributed to project delays. Committee members didn't vote on the proposed legislation on Monday. They will be voting on them in May. You can read more on the Committee’s website. (Lauren Horsch, THE INSIDER, 4/03/18)


Ocracoke Ferry

Funding has finally been secured for trams that will serve customers on the new passenger ferry in Ocracoke village, with the state agreeing to provide up to half of the operating costs for four years. "It's great news," Hyde County Manager Bill Rich said during the March 23 Passenger Ferry Stakeholders Committee meeting in Manteo. "We are just totally stoked about it." Not only has the state promised to pay up to $90,000 for four years, he said, it is buying the trams and giving rather than leasing them to the county. "It's a tremendous commitment," Rich said. "It's going to make it happen." Read more about the ferry here.


Regional Ferry

Elizabeth City City Council has endorsed the idea of a new regional ferry project but isn't committing any city funding for it. Council voted 6-0 last week to adopt a resolution in support of the Harbor Town project that University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill business professor Nick Didow presented to local officials last month. Didow proposed creating a tourism-oriented ferry system that would transport people to communities around the Albemarle Sound. Didow estimated the ferry system would cost almost $14 million to start up and nearly $2 million a year to operate, but he said it could sustain itself while driving up tourism. "This project is being promoted as having the potential to significantly impact travel and tourism in our area," City Manager Rich Olson reported to council.


The proposed five-town ferry would be managed by a private nonprofit, the IBX Authority, and serve Elizabeth City, Edenton, Hertford, Columbia and Plymouth, he reported. Notably, Olson's memo does not include Kitty Hawk, which Didow proposed as a participant in the project. Olson also told council the city's resolution "does not include any monetary commitment on behalf of the city of Elizabeth City." Read more here.


Regulatory Reform:

No current updates. Most relevant regulatory reform action recently by the legislature are recommendations being considered by the House Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform, which can be seen here.

Water Resources, Water/Wastewater Infrastructure & Sustainability:

Water Supply

Water, water everywhere? No it's not, actually. And that's Cumberland County's problem. It's a recurring issue. When it comes to public water supply, large parts of this county come up dry. Some residents, even though they have water, have water contaminated by GenX. Many believe that building a county water program may be the solution to the continual problem. Read more about the Fayetteville water crisis here.



Buildings Infrastructure & Sustainability:

Building Code

Resources: Recommendations

The House Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform presented a list of proposed legislative changes on Wednesday to much discussion from both committee members and stakeholders. There were three proposals that covered the N.C. Department of Insurance, local finance and revenue matters, and statutory authority and inspector responsibilities. One of the proposals includes asking for 10 new positions within the Department of Insurance to help train and education builders and code officials "and anyone else who needs to be brought up to speed" across the state, committee chair Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, said. "The whole purpose is to promote consistency across the state as far as interpretation of the building codes," Brody said. (Lauren Horsch, THE INSIDER, 3/30/18)

Energy Resource Stewardship

Solar Program

Cypress Creek Renewables, which is among the nation's largest solar installers, announced on Tuesday a $16,500 grant to Cape Fear Community College. "We went from Murphy to Manteo to find a partner like this," said Greg Gebhardt, Cypress Creek's director of government and community relations, while standing on the rooftop terrace of CFCC's year-old Advanced and Emerging Technologies building at the college's North Campus. Cypress Creek operates 140 solar farms in North Carolina. Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C. 7, was in attendance to support the announcement. Rouzer has been a vocal supporter of offshore drilling but also said he supports renewable energy initiatives in Eastern North Carolina. Read more about the partnership here.


Hydropower

The new owners of North Carolina dams that were the prize in a long-running fight with the state asked on Thursday that Duke Energy Corp. be forced to buy the hydropower generated. Cube Yadkin Generation asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission to declare that Duke Energy must buy electricity from the Yadkin River dams for 10 years. Duke Energy is required to buy its electricity under a 40-year-old federal clean-energy law, the division of Maryland-based Cube Hydro Partners said. The U.S. Supreme Court last month ended North Carolina's lawsuit over the dams started after previous owner Alcoa Corp. closed an aluminum plant that once employed 1,000 workers and started selling the electricity to commercial customers. North Carolina officials continue challenging the 2016 decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue a new license allowing the dams to operate until 2055. State officials have proposed taking over the dams as public property to stimulate local jobs and ensure control over the river's drinking water as the state's population rises. Read more here.


Pipeline Vigil

Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have been staging protests outside Gov. Roy Cooper's office this week, saying work on the interstate natural gas pipeline is damaging homes and property. The small but determined group of protesters said Cooper's administration made a mistake by issuing the required permits for the 600-mile pipeline to run through eight counties in eastern North Carolina, and they are calling for a one-year moratorium on pipeline construction activities. The $6 billion pipeline is being built by a group of utilities, including Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, and will carry natural gas from hydraulic fracturing wells in West Virginia and Pennsylvania to southeast North Carolina. Read more about the vigil in this article.


Environmental

Fuel Spill

A fuel spill that occurred on Blue Ridge Energy's property at 2491 U.S. 421 S. in Boone has been completely cleaned up with no contamination of adjacent properties, according to BRE spokesperson Renee Whitener. "The geologist has completed testing and the spill is completely cleaned up," Whitener said on Wednesday. "Soil that was affected by the spill was removed and replaced with clean soil and the containment structures that were put in place as precautionary measures to prevent any potential runoff are being removed. The analysis showed no contamination of any adjacent property." Find more information about the spill and cleanup process here.

 Legislative Update 2-8-2018 (4/30/2018) 
   

Breaking News: New US Supreme Court Decision on NC Legislative District Maps

Click Here to Read More

 


 Legislative Update 4-2-2018 (4/5/2018) 
   
PENC Action Group Communications Update 4/2/2018

Meetings with Lawmakers

Leaders from PENC’s Buildings Infrastructure & Sustainability Action Group met with lawmakers at the North Carolina General Assembly last week in conjunction with a legislative meeting of the Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform. In addition to attending the committee meeting, one-on-one meetings were held with committee chairman Rep. Mark Brody (R-Union), Rep. Larry Potts (R-Davidson), Rep. Rena Turner (R-Iredell), and Rep. Larry Strickland (R-Johnston). Reps. Brody and Potts are both contractors. These meetings gave PENC the opportunity educate legislators on PENC and the Buildings I&S Action Group, allowed legislators to give PENC members insight on the issues they’re facing or trying to solve, and continues PENC relationship-building efforts at the NCGA.


The Select Committee is reviewing legislative proposals to recommend to the full legislature during the 2018 short session that begins in May and are expected to be filed as bill by the committee chairs.


EPAC Luncheon with Senator Phil Berger, president of the NC Senate

March 26, Engineers PAC (EPAC) hosted a luncheon for the full engineering committee with Senator Phil Berger, the president of the North Carolina Senate. Berger shared an overview of the successes from the North Carolina General Assembly during his time as President, beginning in January 2011. Leaders and members across the engineering community, including EPAC, PENC, ACEC/NC, ASCE, NCSE and NC State’s College of Engineering attended the lunch at the Dorothy & Roy Park Alumni Center on Centennial Campus. Senator Berger encouraged engineers to be willing to talk about the good things you do. Lawmakers value the opinions of engineers and Senator Berger encouraged the audience to get to know their local elected officials and to get engaged. He also spent a lot of time answering questions during Q&A and talking one-on-one with attendees before and after the event. EPAC is excited to continue hosting events with lawmakers so please be on the lookout for the next event.


EPAC is the political action committee for engineers and operates off of personal contributions in order to participate in North Carolina’s political process by contributing to campaigns of candidates who value responsible engineering across all sectors. Please consider a personal contribution to EPAC. It’s a great way to engage in the critical election cycle of 2018 without having to engage independently with candidates. To contribute or find out more, visit https://penc.org/epac.


Other news of interest related to action groups can be found here.


Transportation Infrastructure & Sustainability

Regulatory Reform

Water/Wastewater Infrastructure & Sustainability

Buildings Infrastructure & Sustainability

Resource Stewardship

Environmental

Transportation Infrastructure & Sustainability:

Short Session Proposals

Resources: Meeting Materials

Lawmakers on the House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions on Monday (4/2) discussed seven proposals for changes to transportation laws that could be brought before the General Assembly during the short session. One proposal would allow the Department of Transportation to waive environmental documents required by the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act for airports that are acquiring 40 acres or less of property for future development in counties where the population is greater than 1 million people, and the airport has a total annual enplanement of over 20 million passengers. Those requirements under the proposal would only impact the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Other proposals would clarify that the net proceeds from the sale of land or facilities that were purchased using the State Highway Fund would be deposited into the State Highway Fund, and authorize the NCDOT to acquire replacement right-of-way for a utility owner instead of reimbursing them the cost of relocating the utilities. Another proposal would effectively remove a salary cap on NCDOT engineer technician positions in the Highway Division. The proposal would allow the Secretary of Transportation to exempt positions from portions of the State Human Resources Act. By exempting the positions, the NCDOT would be able to use its own recruiting methods and salary scale. The exemption could be applied to current engineers and future hires. "It came to our attention that there was one category of employee ... that in some point in time in the department's history had gotten an arbitrary cap put on their wage earning ability," committee chairman Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, said on Monday. "What we are doing now is pretty much removing that, as I understand." He noted that the state is experiencing a shortage in those positions which has contributed to project delays. Committee members didn't vote on the proposed legislation on Monday. They will be voting on them in May. You can read more on the Committee’s website. (Lauren Horsch, THE INSIDER, 4/03/18)


Ocracoke Ferry

Funding has finally been secured for trams that will serve customers on the new passenger ferry in Ocracoke village, with the state agreeing to provide up to half of the operating costs for four years. "It's great news," Hyde County Manager Bill Rich said during the March 23 Passenger Ferry Stakeholders Committee meeting in Manteo. "We are just totally stoked about it." Not only has the state promised to pay up to $90,000 for four years, he said, it is buying the trams and giving rather than leasing them to the county. "It's a tremendous commitment," Rich said. "It's going to make it happen." Read more about the ferry here.


Regional Ferry

Elizabeth City City Council has endorsed the idea of a new regional ferry project but isn't committing any city funding for it. Council voted 6-0 last week to adopt a resolution in support of the Harbor Town project that University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill business professor Nick Didow presented to local officials last month. Didow proposed creating a tourism-oriented ferry system that would transport people to communities around the Albemarle Sound. Didow estimated the ferry system would cost almost $14 million to start up and nearly $2 million a year to operate, but he said it could sustain itself while driving up tourism. "This project is being promoted as having the potential to significantly impact travel and tourism in our area," City Manager Rich Olson reported to council.


The proposed five-town ferry would be managed by a private nonprofit, the IBX Authority, and serve Elizabeth City, Edenton, Hertford, Columbia and Plymouth, he reported. Notably, Olson's memo does not include Kitty Hawk, which Didow proposed as a participant in the project. Olson also told council the city's resolution "does not include any monetary commitment on behalf of the city of Elizabeth City." Read more here.


Regulatory Reform:

No current updates. Most relevant regulatory reform action recently by the legislature are recommendations being considered by the House Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform, which can be seen here.

Water Resources, Water/Wastewater Infrastructure & Sustainability:

Water Supply

Water, water everywhere? No it's not, actually. And that's Cumberland County's problem. It's a recurring issue. When it comes to public water supply, large parts of this county come up dry. Some residents, even though they have water, have water contaminated by GenX. Many believe that building a county water program may be the solution to the continual problem. Read more about the Fayetteville water crisis here.



Buildings Infrastructure & Sustainability:

Building Code

Resources: Recommendations

The House Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform presented a list of proposed legislative changes on Wednesday to much discussion from both committee members and stakeholders. There were three proposals that covered the N.C. Department of Insurance, local finance and revenue matters, and statutory authority and inspector responsibilities. One of the proposals includes asking for 10 new positions within the Department of Insurance to help train and education builders and code officials "and anyone else who needs to be brought up to speed" across the state, committee chair Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, said. "The whole purpose is to promote consistency across the state as far as interpretation of the building codes," Brody said. (Lauren Horsch, THE INSIDER, 3/30/18)

Energy Resource Stewardship

Solar Program

Cypress Creek Renewables, which is among the nation's largest solar installers, announced on Tuesday a $16,500 grant to Cape Fear Community College. "We went from Murphy to Manteo to find a partner like this," said Greg Gebhardt, Cypress Creek's director of government and community relations, while standing on the rooftop terrace of CFCC's year-old Advanced and Emerging Technologies building at the college's North Campus. Cypress Creek operates 140 solar farms in North Carolina. Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C. 7, was in attendance to support the announcement. Rouzer has been a vocal supporter of offshore drilling but also said he supports renewable energy initiatives in Eastern North Carolina. Read more about the partnership here.


Hydropower

The new owners of North Carolina dams that were the prize in a long-running fight with the state asked on Thursday that Duke Energy Corp. be forced to buy the hydropower generated. Cube Yadkin Generation asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission to declare that Duke Energy must buy electricity from the Yadkin River dams for 10 years. Duke Energy is required to buy its electricity under a 40-year-old federal clean-energy law, the division of Maryland-based Cube Hydro Partners said. The U.S. Supreme Court last month ended North Carolina's lawsuit over the dams started after previous owner Alcoa Corp. closed an aluminum plant that once employed 1,000 workers and started selling the electricity to commercial customers. North Carolina officials continue challenging the 2016 decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue a new license allowing the dams to operate until 2055. State officials have proposed taking over the dams as public property to stimulate local jobs and ensure control over the river's drinking water as the state's population rises. Read more here.


Pipeline Vigil

Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have been staging protests outside Gov. Roy Cooper's office this week, saying work on the interstate natural gas pipeline is damaging homes and property. The small but determined group of protesters said Cooper's administration made a mistake by issuing the required permits for the 600-mile pipeline to run through eight counties in eastern North Carolina, and they are calling for a one-year moratorium on pipeline construction activities. The $6 billion pipeline is being built by a group of utilities, including Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, and will carry natural gas from hydraulic fracturing wells in West Virginia and Pennsylvania to southeast North Carolina. Read more about the vigil in this article.


Environmental

Fuel Spill

A fuel spill that occurred on Blue Ridge Energy's property at 2491 U.S. 421 S. in Boone has been completely cleaned up with no contamination of adjacent properties, according to BRE spokesperson Renee Whitener. "The geologist has completed testing and the spill is completely cleaned up," Whitener said on Wednesday. "Soil that was affected by the spill was removed and replaced with clean soil and the containment structures that were put in place as precautionary measures to prevent any potential runoff are being removed. The analysis showed no contamination of any adjacent property." Find more information about the spill and cleanup process here.

End of Session Summary

 

The 2018 legislative short session adjourned on Friday, June 29 after just a month and a half of legislative work as legislators wished to wrap up in advance of the 4th of July holiday and get on the campaign trail. The North Carolina General Assembly operates in biennium sessions with a long session in the first (or odd numbered year) and a short session in the second year (occurring in the even numbered year). The long session was held in 2017, which was the second shortest long session since 1973, according to a Senate press release and the short session was this 2018 session which began May 16.

 

Once session began, legislators were hard at work passing public bills, which are bills that have statewide affect, for the first month. These bills are also subject to Gubernatorial action. Some of the most important public bills passed include the 2018 appropriations act, which made adjustments to the two-year budget passed in 2018, a bill making technical corrections to the state budget, House Bill 463, S711- NC Farm Act of 2018, S325- The Uniform and Expanded Early Voting Act, and S758- Build NC Bond Act- all of which were signed into law by the end of the legislative session.

 

Public bills were the immediate focus because while the legislature is in session, the Governor has 10 days to sign, veto, or not sign public bills. If he does not sign or veto a bill, it becomes law without his signature. Once the legislature adjourns, the Governor has 30 days to take action on any bills that have been sent to him. Knowing Governor Cooper was going to veto a number of bills, lawmakers wanted to keep his timeframe to the 10-day period so they could override select bills without having to come back for a special session. In order to keep up with the hopeful timeline of adjourning near the end of June, a self-imposed deadline for public bills was set so vetoes would happen by the time in which the legislature hoped to adjourn, which gave lawmakers time to override vetoes as necessary.

 

The largest (and perhaps the most controversial) bill tackled by the General Assembly this year was the technical corrections bill to the state budget. This bill contained a number of provisions such as a fix to funding of the Durham/Chapel Hill light rail project, state trooper training, and charter schools, it was not passed without an impressive amount of protest from Democrats and attention from the media. Specifically, bipartisan frustration was expressed as a result of the way in which the language of the light rail project technical corrections was drafted. The language originally drafted for the technical corrections prompted ambiguity about the outcome of the project; however, these ambiguities were eventually corrected in the final version of the technical corrections. 

 

The controversy surrounding the budget was not necessarily sparked by the contents of the changes but instead the procedure of its passing. A feature of this legislative short session that sparked criticism from legislators and citizens of North Carolina was the unique process Speaker of the House Tim Moore and President of the Senate Phil Berger used to pass the state’s budget. This parliamentary move used by Republican legislative leaders included making the budget an amendment on a conference committee report which had already passed approval in both the House and the Senate. This move prevents any amendments being offered or debated, leaving all 170 members of the General Assembly with only the option to vote “yes” or “no” on the budget. After a 66-44 vote, the budget made its way to the desk of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, which he then chose to veto. The Senate and House were quick to override the veto with a 34-14 vote in the Senate, and a 73-44 vote in the House. This was 11th override of Cooper's 14 vetoes since he took office in early 2017.

 

Aside from the heated debate over the budget process, other relevant bills taken up this session were S758- Build NC Bond Act, H948- Building Code Regulatory Reform, H1054- UNC Capital Projects, H972- Water Safety Act, H1029- DOT/DMV Legislative Requests, H974- Reform Financial Reporting for OLBs. The Build NC Bond Act was passed by the General Assembly on June 14 and signed into law by Governor Cooper on June 20. See Governor Cooper’s remarks on the bill here in his press release. Like the Build NC Bond Act, both Building Code Regulatory Reform and UNC Capital Projects were passed by legislators and signed into law by Governor Cooper. Kent Jackson and the Building Code action group watched the activity of H948- Building Code Regulatory Reform. Preliminary discussions on the Building Code Regulatory Reform Bill were focused on expanding the definition of a “system”- but this definition expansion did not make it into the final piece of legislation. We will continue to monitor this issue and the bills filed in the 2019 legislative session for this exact or similar language in order to secure a position for PENC to provide input in defining “system” in the state’s building code manual.

 

 However, House Bill 1029- DOT/DMV Legislative Requests currently sits in a conference committee which was formed following a non-concurrence vote on June 14. Similarly, House Bill 974- Reform Financial Reporting for OLBs was stuck in House Regulatory Reform committee, and House Bill 972- Water Safety Act was not heard in House Environmental committee and therefore both bills were unable to move to either chamber for a vote.  Because these three bills were not passed by the General Assembly before their adjournment on June 29, they are no longer eligible for the next legislative session. An important bill that was not taken up this short session was H590- Interior Design Profession Act. The bill was referred to Senate Rules during June of the 2017 long session and much to our excitement, was not calendared in the committee throughout the entire 2018 short session. The language from House Bill 590 will now have to be filed again at the start of the 2019 legislative session if the supporting stakeholders still wish to see the changes through. When each long session begins, no previous bills remain. All bills that were not passed in the previous short and long session must be filed again if the stakeholders chose to do so.

 

The final two weeks of legislative action were filled with local bills (those that affect less than 15 counties), appointment confirmations, and constitutional amendments. These bills are not subject to Gubernatorial action and therefore lawmakers had time to take them up while awaiting action on public bills. Some of the most controversial constitutional amendments debated during the final two weeks were H1092- Constitutional Amendment to Require photo ID to Vote, S75- Constitutional Amendment Max Income Tax Rate of 5.5%, and S677- Protect Right to Hunt and Fish. You can read more about these amendments and other amendments here.

 

 The North Carolina General Assembly 2018 adjournment resolution that was signed on June 29 to end session states that the legislators will reconvene on Tuesday, November 27th, 2018. You can find that document here. The adjournment resolution uses the restriction established in last year’s adjournment to give the General Assembly the bandwidth to address whatever issue they feel is necessary following the November elections. The only restriction on legislators once they return in November is that they will not be able to file new bills.

 

The upcoming 2019 legislative long session will look a bit different following the November 2018 general elections and the new redistricting that has taken place and the November session. Many predict that Democrats will take over seats that Republicans currently hold, and that will definitely have an effect on the political composition of the state legislature. Be on the lookout for an update following the November general election and our outlook on the 2019 as we get closer to start of the new biennium.

 

If you are interested in reading last week’s PENC Action Group Updates, you can find it here.

 

Please see below for how to get involved in PENC Action Groups.

 

 

PENC Action Groups:

Resource Stewardship | Contact: Bob Via

Regulatory Reform | Contact: Kendra Parrish

Buildings Infrastructure and Sustainability | Contact: Sean Gleason

Transportation Infrastructure & Sustainability | Contact: David Charters

Water/Wastewater Infrastructure & Sustainability | Contact: Monroe Huckaby

 

 

 

PENC Legislative Update- March 2018: 

As of February 13th, the NC General Assembly ended the special session that began on February 7th. Lawmakers considered few topics aside from GenX during this week-long return to Raleigh. Democrats and Republicans are at odds over funding to research the effects of GenX in the state’s water, and you can read more about the funding debate in this February 9th article from The News & Observer. The GenX bill (HB189) currently sits in the House Select Committee on NC River Quality, a committee that last met on February 21st to hear from the Department of Environmental Quality, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, research representatives from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and other special guests. No distinct progress on the bill was made. The agenda for the February 21st meeting can be found here. In addition to GenX, an omnibus bill (HB90) which included provisions for class size reductions, changes to election laws, and the establishment of a mitigation fund for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was passed by lawmakers. House Bill 90 is now awaiting Governor Cooper’s approval. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been a topic of controversy for over six weeks of negotiations surrounding a deal that would bring $57.8 million to North Carolina. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project has morphed from an agreement between the pipeline partnership and the state to a deal between the partnership and Gov. Roy Cooper. You can read more about NC’s role in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline here.

Since the end of session, interim committees continue to meet. The House Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform met on February 15th to review reports and discuss the implementation process of the newly established and ongoing reforms of the state’s building code standards. Committee discussion surrounded this presentation by Mark Carpenter and Robert Privott of the North Carolina Home Builders Association. The committee will meet again March 28th at 1pm, although an agenda has not yet been released. 

As lawmakers continue to consider water contamination and public health, the U.S. Coast Guard reported on March 5 that multiple containers were knocked off board a cargo ship in the recent high winds and rough seas of the North Carolina Outer Banks near Nags Head. The containers dumped nearly 6,000 pounds of sulfuric acid into the water. You can read more about the spill here. What affects this could have on the water quality discussion in North Carolina have yet to be seen.

The Engineers PAC (EPAC) of North Carolina invites the engineering community to a luncheon with Senator Berger, President Pro Tempore, on Tuesday, March 27th at the Dorothy and Roy Alumni Center, NCSU Centennial Campus in Raleigh. Registration begins at 11:30am with lunch to follow at noon. The cost is $35, which includes the cost of the meal and you can register on the epac website here. In addition to the luncheon with Senator Berger, EPAC is also representing engineers at a variety of other political events for political candidates. If you are interested in attending any of these events or in being involved in EPAC, please contact Pam Townsend at Pam.Townsend@wsp.com.