PENC Legislative Updates

 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.

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

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

Click Here to Read More

 


 Legislative Update: 1/25/2018 (1/25/2018) 
   

Thursday evening, January 18th, while most of central North Carolina was enjoying the second of two beautiful snow days, the US Supreme Court issued a stay that allows North Carolina to hold elections as scheduled for its congressional districts that were ruled unconstitutional recently by a lower court. North Carolina Republicans are still hoping for a similar action regarding its state legislative districts so there is still uncertainty surrounding NC 2018 elections.

 

Below is an article about the action as well as statements from the North Carolina Republican Party and the North Carolina Democratic Party.

 

Supreme Court says North Carolina does not have to immediately redraw congressional maps that a lower court ruled unconstitutional

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/01/18/supreme-court-says-north-carolina-does-not-have-to-immediately-redraw-congressional-maps-that-a-lower-court-ruled-unconstitutional/?utm_term=.96642f6979bc

 

 

Republican Party Statement on Decision

Democratic Party Statement on Decision

 




 Legislative Update:1/4/10 (1/4/2018) 
   

The North Carolina General Assembly is kicking off 2018 with a special session on January 10th. While the agenda for the session has not been announced, lawmakers are considering GenX legislation, judicial reforms, and some budget tweaks. The legislative short session begins in May and there are some items lawmakers are eager to address before then, but whether they can get agreement on constitutional amendments, for example, will determine the scope of the session. An article written by The Insider is shared below and includes links to interviews with Senator Berger and Speaker Moore.

In addition to the special session, interim committees continue to meet as they study issues and consider possible legislation for the May session. Upcoming committees meetings include:

  • House Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality
  • House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation and Long Term Funding Solutions
  • Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy
  • Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee
  • Environmental Review Commission
  • Session Preview
  • Resources: Berger Interview | Moore Interview

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger have dropped a few hints about what to expect during the legislative session that begins Jan. 10. In separate interviews broadcast last week on Spectrum News' "Capital Tonight," the legislative leaders said they could take action on constitutional amendments, GenX river contamination, Gov. Roy Cooper's appointments to state boards, possible budget tweaks and judicial redistricting proposals.

Both Berger and Moore voiced some uncertainty about whether proposed judicial changes will be ready for a vote this month. The House and Senate have separate maps for redrawing District Court and Superior Court districts, and a switch from elected to appointed judges is still under discussion. "I don't know if we'll be ready at the time of Jan. 10 to move forward," Berger told Spectrum. "I think it's clear we're going to have to do something (on judicial districts). ... I don't think it can wait until May." Moore told Spectrum that he doesn't think merit selection has enough support yet to get the three-fifths majority vote required to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, but he said he'd support a system in which the legislature appoints judges -- "if the process is set up the right way, with input from the local communities. ... It works in Virginia, it works in South Carolina." But Berger said in the interview that he'd like a system that includes "participation or input from all branches of government" with "some component of popular involvement," such as a retention election.

Moore also told Spectrum that constitutional amendments and potentially some budget tweaks could be on the agenda, but he didn't offer specifics. Berger said the Senate is vetting some of Cooper's appointments and expects to take action during the session. Moore predicted a session of several days but floated the possibility that the entire session could be postponed. "We may actually come into session and then recess until a later date," he said in the Spectrum interview. "We don't know yet. One thing we're watching is to see if we need to do anything on legislative redistricting." (Colin Campbell, THE INSIDER, 1/02/17)


 Legislative Update 8-31-17 (10/3/2017) 
   

The North Carolina General Assembly has been busy working throughout August, focusing on wrapping up some bills that were mid-negotiation upon the July adjournment, overriding some of the Governor's vetos, and most visibly, redrawing legislative maps as required by the courts and offering numerous public comment sessions across the state.

The new maps that will be in place soon, will be in effect for 2018 elections. Citizens will want to check districts again before voting because you may find you have a new representative, senator, or both. WRAL did a good job of outlining changes, which you can see by reading the article, but the highlights are shared below.

Environmental, Water/Wastewater

Of interest to some engineers is the progress on H576: Allow Aerosolization of Leachate, also known as the "garbage juice bill". It would require DEQ "to approve aerosolization of leachate and wastewater from a lined sanitary landfill for the disposal of municipal solid waste landfill...(2) allow the Department to approve aerosolization of leachate from unlined landfills; and (3) provide that aerosolization of leachate or wastewater that results in a zero-liquid discharge and is not a significant air contamination source does not constitute a source that requires certain permits."

The bill passed the legislature in June and was vetoed by Governor Cooper ten days later. It is expected to come up for a veto override vote this week, although it may continue to be pushed back.

Lawmakers also continue working on environmental regulatory reform issues that were not resolved during the regular session but whether more reforms are expected during a special session or not until the 2018 short session are still to be determined.

Regulatory Reform

During the August special sessions, S16: Business Regulatory Reform Act of 2017 passed which includes some of the following:

  • Require agencies and the Office of Administrative Hearings to provide additional notice of petitions for rule making
  • Provide for heightened Environmental Management Commission oversight of certain reports
  • Eliminate duplicative and unnecessary electrical equipment and appliance certification requirements
  • Authorize private condemnation of land for pipelines and mains originating outside of NC
  • Clarify stormwater laws
  • Amend the threshold for coastal stormwater requirements for residential projects
  • Study erosion and sedimentation control programs
  • Wastewater system permit extension

The August special session continues so stay tuned for more updates.

Redistricting Additional Information

Incumbents Double-Bunked

(meaning there are now two sitting lawmakers who used to represent different districts but whose home addresses are now in the same district, thus being "double-bunked")

  •  Representatives John Faircloth (R) and Jon Hardister (R) in Greensboro
  •  Representatives Carl Ford (R) and Larry Pittman (R) in Cabarrus & Rowan counties
  •  Representative Susan Martin (R) and Representative Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D) in Wilson County
  •  Representative John Sauls (R) and Representative Robert Reives (D) in Lee County
  •  Senators John Alexander (R) and Chad Barefoot (R) in northern Wake County and Franklin County. Barefoot announced that he will not seek re-election.
  •  Deanna Ballard (R) and Shirley Randleman (R) in a district that covers Wilkes, Watauga, Ashe, and Alleghany counties, part of Surry County
  •  Joyce Krawiec (R) and Dan Barrett (R) in Forsyth and Davie counties
  •  Bill Cook (R) and Erica Smith-Ingram (D) in a district that covers Vance, Warren, Northampton, Bertie, Martin, and Beaufort counties.

Open Seats

No sitting lawmaker in the district

  • House District 59 in Greensboro
  • House District 8 in Pitt County
  • House District 54 in Chatham County
  • House District 79 in Beaufort and northern Craven counties
  • Senate District 16 in western Wake County
  • Senate District 33 in Rowan and Stanly counties
  • Senate District 34 in Yadkin and Iredell counties
  • Senate District 1 that covers Dare, Hyde, Tyrell, Washington, Currituck, Camden, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Chowan, Gates, and Hertford counties
    • Representative Bob Steinburg (R) has announced he is considering running for this seat, which would then leave an open seat in his current House district
  • You can read more about the redistricting process in this WRAL article.


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.