Recent Blog Posts

  • Open Meetings Book: New Edition Now Available

    Authored by: on Friday, March 10th, 2017

    Can the board of county commissioners meet in closed session to discuss the performance of the elected sheriff or register of deeds? The open meetings law allows a public body to meet in closed session to talk about employees. But are these elected officials considered to be employees? The county commissioners have no authority to hire, fire, or discipline them. So what’s the answer? You can find it on page 64 of the new (eighth) edition of Open Meetings and Local Governments in North Carolina: Some Questions and Answersnow available from the School of Government, just in time for Sunshine Week. Read on to learn more about the latest version of this publication, and to see the answer to the question. Read more »

  • Who Gets the Refund?

    Authored by: on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

    Usually the most difficult question about a refund is whether that refund is lawful.  We’ve talked a bunch about how the Machinery Act limits refunds to taxes levied due to clerical error and illegality (read this and this).  But we haven’t discussed the question that arises after deciding that a refund is lawful: who should get the refund check?

    If the tax payment being refunded was made by the owner of the property and the property hasn’t changed hands, the “who gets the check?” question is easy to answer.  The property owner gets the check.

    But what if the refund is for a prior tax year and the property is now owned by a new party? What if the payment being refunded was made by somebody other than the property owner?   The question of “who gets the check?” suddenly becomes much more difficult.

    Read more »

  • Email as Public Record: Five Things You Should Know [Updated]

    Authored by: on Monday, February 20th, 2017

    This is an update of my January 27th, 2010 blog post on this topic. 

    You probably already know that the definition of public records in our state law is extremely broad, and certainly includes electronic records like email. This means that email is subject to both the public access and records retention aspects of that law. Here’s a list of five other things you should know about email as a public record.  Read more »

  • Local Beer and Wine Privilege License Taxes

    Authored by: on Monday, January 30th, 2017

    Sadly the Panthers are not returning to the Super Bowl this year. Despite Cam’s absence from the big game, much of America will still be watching. And drinking. A lot.

    One frequently cited study suggests that over 325 million gallons of beer will be consumed during the big game.  That seems high, as this Asheville newspaper points out. But regardless of the actual total, we know that beer and wine sales soar during the week before the Super Bowl.

    What does this have to do with local governments?  Taxes.  All of those Super Bowl six-packs purchased in North Carolina were sold by retailers that paid local privilege license taxes on their business activities.  Read more »

  • One Oath or Two? What is THE Oath of Office?

    Authored by: on Friday, January 27th, 2017

    Article VI, Section 7 of the North Carolina Constitution instructs anyone elected or appointed to public office in this state to take and subscribe – that is, swear (or affirm) and sign – the oath prescribed therein before entering upon the duties of the office. A number of statutes echo this requirement. For example, G.S. 153A-26 and 160A-61 collectively direct all county and city officeholders to take and subscribe the constitutional oath. The oath is expressly required by several statutes pertaining to designated local government offices, including those of mayor and councilmember (G.S. 160A-68(b)), police chief and police officer (160A-284), tax assessor (105-295), and tax collector (105-349(g)).

    General Statute 11-7 sets out another oath that, according to the statute, must be taken and subscribed by every person elected or appointed to public office in the state. Despite obvious similarities, the wording of the constitutional and statutory oaths is not identical. This blog post considers whether it is really necessary for incoming officeholders to swear and sign both oaths. It also offers a combined version of the two oaths that incoming officeholders could use. Read more »

  • Post-Inauguration Update on the Affordable Care Act and the New FLSA Salary Threshold

    Authored by: on Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

    Two of the very first actions taken by President Trump after his January 20 inauguration involved issues of great concern to employers: the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the future of the new U.S. Department of Labor regulation raising the minimum salary required for an employee to be exempt from the overtime requirement of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In his first Executive Order the President declared that it is the policy of his administration to seek prompt repeal of the ACA —  although the Executive Order itself did not make any changes to the ACA statute or regulations. Later that same day, the President directed federal agency heads to postpone by 60 days the effective date of any new regulations scheduled to take effect – which means that the new FLSA minimum salary overtime regulation will certainly not take effect before March 21, even if the temporary injunction restraining their implementation is lifted. It may, of course, never take effect given the change in administrations in Washington. Read more »

  • Legislative Preview: Ideas from the Interim

    Authored by: on Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

    This post is co-authored with Christine Wunsche, the Director of the School of Government’s Legislative Reporting Service.

    Tomorrow, January 25, the North Carolina General Assembly returns to Raleigh to begin the business of the new biennium. Here at the School of Government, we are all waiting anxiously to see what bills will be filed in our respective areas of work. While Christine and I would rather not try to predict the topics that will be of interest this year, we can preview some of the bills that have already been drafted and ideas that have been recommended by oversight committees or study commissions. While there is no guarantee that these ideas will make it into actual legislation this session, these types of proposals often garner some interest because legislators and others have invested a significant amount of time in studying the issues involved and crafting solutions. If you want to get a jump start on just a few of the bills or committee recommendations that may surface this session, read on…

    Read more »