Recent Blog Posts

  • Animal Shelters: More Changes on the Way

    Authored by: on Thursday, August 27th, 2009

    UPDATE September 2013: In 2013, the General Assembly enacted legislation to shift oversight for some of these sheltering requirements to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. See related blog post here.

    State legislators and regulators have dedicated a lot of time and energy to animal shelters over the last few years. After a rather tumultuous rulemaking process, public shelters are now subject to regulatory oversight by the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. As a result, shelters across the state have been adapting facilities, changing policies and procedures, and seeking required training for staff in an effort come into compliance with the new regulations. But just when they thought that they had it all under control…

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  • Public Hearings for Economic Development Incentives: An Unwritten Rule?

    Authored by: on Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

    North Carolina local governments frequently use cash grants as an economic development incentive to lure businesses into their respective jurisdictions. The grants are authorized under the Local Development Act, G.S. 158-7.1 et seq., but a quick read of the statutes might obscure the need for a public hearing prior to approving such incentives. To understand the source of this hearing requirement, you have to look closely at the statute and the case law.

    Those familiar with the Local Development Act are aware of the stringent notice and public hearing requirements for activities related to acquiring, improving, and conveying property authorized by subsection (b) of G.S. 158-7.1, such as constructing and conveying shell buildings, extending utility lines to a facility, and engaging in site preparation. For those enumerated activities, the hearing requirements are clearly spelled out in G.S. 158-7.1(c) and (d).

    But what about an appropriation for a cash incentive to induce a company to bring jobs and capital investment to North Carolina? Some argue that the award of a cash grant is not authorized by the property-related provisions of subsection (b); rather, they suggest that the authority to offer cash incentives is likely derived from the general grant of authority described in G.S. 158-7.1(a), which is a catch-all authorization for economic development appropriations. If that were the case, then a cash incentive would conveniently avoid all of the procedural requirements associated with property-related activities authorized under subsection (b). That argument just doesn’t hold up under closer examination. This post explains why. Read more »

  • Are You Certified? Part II: More Information About The New Statewide Uniform HUB Certification Program

    Authored by: on Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

    My post on the Statewide Uniform HUB Certification Program from two weeks ago prompted some follow-up questions through email.  I thought it might be helpful to post those questions and my answers to those questions here. Read more »

  • When Are Public Hearings Required

    Authored by: on Friday, August 21st, 2009

    A recurrent point of confusion is when must a city council or board of county commissioners hold a public hearing.  Many governing boards spend a lot of time on zoning map amendments, and those actions require a public hearing, so a notion arises that other sorts of ordinances surely require a public hearing as well.  But in fact they don’t.  Apart from ordinances involving land-use regulation, public hearings are required on only one other sort of ordinance – Sunday closing ordinances adopted by cities.  In general, apart from actions involving service districts and authorization of borrowing, statutorily-required public hearings are fairly rare.  Unless the statute that authorizes a particular sort of action requires a public hearing as a condition of acting, a board is under no compulsion to hold a hearing.  (Many boards voluntarily hold public hearings in controversial situations even though the law does not require them.)  Here’s a list of those statutes that I know of that require a city council or board of county commissioners to hold a public hearing: Read more »

  • Local Tax Collectors Sing the Bankruptcy Blues

    Authored by: on Thursday, August 20th, 2009

    Consumer bankruptcy filings rose nearly 37% nationwide in the first half of 2009 as compared with the same time period one year ago.  Second quarter bankruptcy statistics for North Carolina are not yet available, but first quarter 2009 filings across the state were up 24% from first quarter 2008.

    None of this is good news for local tax collectors and budget officials.  Read more »

  • To Bid or Not to Bid? How to Buy Hardware and Software

    Authored by: on Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

    Is your local government still using 10-year-old desktop computers? Do you need to buy new anti-spyware software? Or do you need to update your phone system? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, and you decide to buy new computers, or anti-spyware software, or a new phone system, do you need to solicit bids? What options for purchasing information technology are available to local governments in North Carolina? Read more »

  • Utility Rate Discounts – Can a local government cut its utility customers a break?

    Authored by: on Monday, August 17th, 2009

    This is perhaps my most frequently asked question, and it comes up in a variety of contexts. Some local governments wish to provide discounted utility services (particularly water, wastewater, and solid waste) to certain targeted populations, such as low income customers, senior citizens, and veterans. Other units seek to charge lower rates to religious, educational or other non-profit entities. Still others hope to use discounted utility rates as among their economic development incentives to attract new industries. Whatever the reason for wanting to provide the utility rate discounts, the answer is always the same—a local unit may not discount its utility rates based solely on the status of a customer or customer class. But what do I mean by status? And are there any exceptions or ways to circumvent this restriction? Read on to find out… Read more »