Recent Blog Posts

  • Considerations for Legislative Development Decisions

    Authored by: on Thursday, October 7th, 2021

    A property owner has requested for the local government to rezone her property to allow for significant new development. This could bring substantial new investments, business, and residents. But it could also change the character of the place, burden public infrastructure, and alter neighborhood demographics. Should the local government approve the rezoning?

    In general, legislative decisions such as zoning map amendments are left to the discretion of the governing board. Local elected officials may take in public opinion, technical analysis, and political judgment about what is in the best interest of the community. Some considerations are good and even required—planning board recommendation and comprehensive plan consistency, for example. Other considerations are off limits. Governing board members must not base decisions on the race, ethnicity, or religion of the applicant, landowner, or future tenants of the property.

    This blog outlines those good and necessary considerations for legislative development decisions. A separate blog highlights the topics that are out of bounds. Read more »

  • The Impact of S.L. 2021-132 on the Confidentiality of Child Protective Services Information and Records

    Authored by: on Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

    As the 2021 Legislative Session continues, one new session law that addresses child welfare, S.L. 2021-132, has raised a number of questions for county department of social services (“DSS”) directors and attorneys. This new session law has many elements related to child welfare court proceedings, which my colleague Sara DePasquale will address in a separate blog post. This blog focuses solely on Section 1.(c) of S.L. 2021-132, which amends G.S. 7B-302 – a law that addresses confidentiality of child protective services (“CPS”) records. The amendment allows members of the North Carolina General Assembly to access confidential social services information and records in certain limited instances. Read more »

  • Analyzing Property Tax Appeals for Systemic Bias

    Authored by: on Monday, October 4th, 2021

    Last year I wrote about the “assessment gap” that disadvantages poor and minority homeowners in many states, including North Carolina. Intrigued by that national study of the property tax appraisal process, I decided to learn if similar evidence of systemic bias exists in North Carolina’s property tax appeal process.

    My goal was to answer two questions about property tax appeal rates and results. First, do poor and minority taxpayers appeal their property tax appraisals as often as do wealthy and White taxpayers? Second, when poor and minority taxpayers appeal their tax appraisals, do they achieve similar results as do wealthy and White taxpayers?

    If not, then this “appeal gap” might explain some of the previously identified assessment gap; fewer successful appeals from poor and minority taxpayers would contribute to higher tax appraisals relative to market value for those taxpayers. Read more »

  • American Rescue Plan Act: Aid for Small Businesses and Nonprofits with ARP/CLFRF

    Authored by: on Monday, October 4th, 2021

    The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) is a wide-ranging law that provides federal funding in areas ranging from child care to higher education to community service to relief for shuttered venues to a restaurant revitalization fund. Separate from those programs, one component of ARPA distributes Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (“CLFRF”) to state and local governments for the purpose of responding “to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19) or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries.” (Part 8, Subtitle M of ARPA).

    Temporary rules governing the use of CLFRF have been promulgated Read more »

  • An In-Depth Look at Medical Exemptions from COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

    Authored by: on Monday, October 4th, 2021

    An increasing number of employers are making vaccination against COVID-19 a condition of employment. In the near future, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the North Carolina Division of Occupational Safety and Health (NC OSH) are likely to require most larger employers to adopt a vaccine mandate (see here). Vaccine mandates are lawful, subject only to medical exceptions required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and religious exceptions required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (see here). Media reports suggest that employees are asking for medical or religious exemptions in significant numbers. This blog post looks at the medical exemption under the ADA.  What kinds of conditions would justify an exemption?  What documentation may an employer require? A future blog post will address requests for religious accommodations. Read more »

  • Procedures for Legislative Development Decisions

    Authored by: on Friday, October 1st, 2021

    A property owner requested a rezoning. The town needs to adopt an update to the subdivision ordinance. The planning board has recommended an amendment to the comprehensive plan. What are the requirements for notice, hearing, and adoption of these amendments? Read on to find out.

    This blog walks through the procedures applicable to legislative decisions for development regulations. Read more »

  • American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP/CLFRF): Using ARP/CLFRF to Provide Premium Pay for Local Government Employees

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

    The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP/CLFRF) provides funding to all NC counties and municipalities to address pandemic-related and essential infrastructure needs. (See previous blog posts for more general information on the ARP/CLFRF). One of the eligible expenditure categories of ARP/CLFRF monies is to respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay. US Treasury’s Interim Final Rule states that

    A recipient may use funds to provide premium pay to eligible workers of the recipient who perform essential work … provided that any premium pay … must respond to eligible workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency. A recipient uses premium pay… to respond to eligible workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency if it prioritizes low- and moderate-income persons. The recipient must provide … a written justification to [US Treasury] of how the premium pay … responds to eligible workers performing essential work if the premium pay or grant would increase an eligible worker’s total wages and remuneration above 150 percent of such eligible worker’s residing State’s average annual wage for all occupations or their residing county’s average annual wage, whichever is higher.

    31 CFR Part 35 Subpart A Sect. 35.6(c) (Interim Final Rule or IFR). The contours of this expenditure category are further fleshed out in US Treasury’s accompanying FAQs, and in the US Treasury State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Compliance and Reporting Guidance (Compliance Guide). The following summarizes these parameters, identifies substantive and process requirements, and provides a checklist to aid local governments in implementing premium pay for local government employees. Read more »