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  • How Does North Carolina Law Address Outbreaks of Communicable Disease?

    Authored by: on Monday, September 29th, 2014

    Earlier this month, I attended the North Carolina Public Health Association’s annual fall conference and had the opportunity to hear a panel address the 2014 Ebola virus epidemic. The panel featured state epidemiologist Megan Davies and several local health directors who, while focusing on Ebola, spoke about many aspects of core public health infrastructure—including the capacity of North Carolina’s public health system to detect and respond to communicable disease outbreaks.

    As Dr. Davies was quick to point out, the present Ebola epidemic is still confined to west Africa. While the global public health community is appropriately concerned with containing this outbreak—the worst on record—it isn’t something that we should feel imminently threatened by here in North Carolina. Any epidemic may be worthy of our attention, as North Carolinians may work, study, volunteer, or travel almost anywhere in the world. But Ebola has characteristics that make it easier to contain than other outbreaks that readers of this blog may recall. Unlike SARS or H1N1 flu, it is not an airborne illness—Ebola is spread by contact with the body fluids of an infected person. It is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted to humans from infected animals, but the animals that are its natural hosts (such as chimpanzees) are not native to North America. Also, the outbreaks of Ebola that have occurred periodically since the 1970s have unfortunately and tragically been facilitated by inadequate health care facilities and supplies in the countries where the disease originated. Even the health care workers who cannot avoid dealing with patients’ body fluids can be kept healthy with infection control methods and supplies that are routine in US health care facilities.

    In other words, there is no need to panic about Ebola in North Carolina. However, this has also been the summer of enterovirus D68 and chikungunya, and those diseases have appeared in our state. Plus, some communicable diseases are endemic in North Carolina, meaning that they have not been eradicated and can be expected to appear from time to time. I hope you’ll agree, that makes this a good time to write about the laws that North Carolina has in place to detect and respond to communicable diseases. Read more »

  • Tax Collection on Surrendered Property

    Authored by: on Thursday, September 25th, 2014

    What does it mean for local government tax collectors when debtors surrender property in bankruptcy proceedings?

    Great question! Let’s see what the band Cheap Trick has to say on this topic:

     

    Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright, they just seem a little weird,

    Surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away, ay, ay, ay

    Hmm. That chorus is catchy but not very helpful. Perhaps we should look to federal bankruptcy law instead of pop music to answer this question.

    Read more »

  • Legal Authority for Peddler Permit Fees

    Authored by: on Monday, September 22nd, 2014

    The General Assembly’s enactment of Session Law 2014-3 will eventually result in the elimination of nearly all local privilege license taxes. (My colleague Chris McLaughlin has blogged about the impact of S.L. 2014-3 on local governments here and here.) School of Government faculty members have received inquiries from local officials worried that S.L. 2014-3 applies to the fees that cities and counties charge for permits issued to peddlers and other itinerant salespeople (“peddler permit fees”). This blog post examines the legal basis for peddler permit fees and explains why S.L. 2014-3 does not curtail the authority of local governments to impose them. Read more »

  • Property Taxes and Non-Profits

    Authored by: on Friday, September 19th, 2014

    The tax status of real and personal property owned or used by charitable non-profit organizations can get complicated when there are multiple private and public entities involved with the property.  Is property exempt if it is owned by a non-profit organization and leased to other non-profits? What if it is leased to a mixture of non- and for-profit organizations? Does it matter if the non-profit organizations are 501(c)(3) certified? What if a government owns the property and leases it to a non-profit?

    This blog attempts to unravel some of these knotty non-profit problems. Read more »

  • How Public Are Law Enforcement Vehicle or Body Camera Videos? (Not Very, in North Carolina.)

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

    “We may have reached the point where video technology is producing a full-fledged revolution in policing. That revolution has been crystalized, or at least revealed by, the events in Ferguson. The first element of that revolution is a growing expectation among Americans that any dramatic event that takes place in public will be recorded on video.”

    This statement is from a recent article posted to the ACLU website. The lack of video documentation in the Ferguson shooting has sparked a call (most recently from the White House) for cameras to be a standard requirement for law enforcement in vehicles and on the officers’ bodies. A recent U.S. Department of Justice sponsored report “Implementing a Body Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned” describes the benefits and challenges of body worn cameras. The report includes specific recommendations for implementation, balancing law enforcement, community, and privacy concerns. An introductory comment in the report observes that “A police department that deploys body-worn cameras is making a statement that it believes the actions of its officers are a matter of public record…” It’s clear that the call for video documentation of police/citizen interactions is very much about transparency, and that the expectation is that videos will be available to the public. As North Carolina cities and counties prepare to respond to the call for transparency, it’s important to consider the limitations that North Carolina law imposes on the release of these types of records. Read more »

  • NC Local Governments, Meet Your New State Partner for Economic Development

    Authored by: on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

    North Carolina local governments have a new partner in their economic development efforts. Session Law 2014-18 authorizes the North Carolina Department of Commerce to enter into a contract with a nonprofit entity in order to carry out many of the Department’s economic development recruiting and marketing functions for the state. The nonprofit entity has already been incorporated and dubbed the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. In order to assist local governments with understanding their new economic development partner, this post describes the enabling legislation and some of the significant requirements imposed on the entity. Read more »

  • Consistently Inconsistent? Considering Consistency Statements for Zoning Amendments

    Authored by: on Monday, September 15th, 2014

    When the city council or county commission considers a rezoning or zoning ordinance amendment the board must approve a statement about the amendment’s consistency with adopted plans and public interest. According to the statute “[t]hat statement is not subject to judicial review.” And yet we have two recent examples of North Carolina courts reviewing consistency statements. What gives? This blog reviews the statutory requirements, the recent cases, and some guidance for moving forward.

    Read more »