Recent Blog Posts

  • New Rules for Online Access to Databases and Other Records

    Authored by: on Monday, May 15th, 2017

    The North Carolina public records law provides a broad right of access to inspect and obtain a copy of public records. Increasingly, public agencies make records available on their websites. For example, many cities and counties post downloadable files of meeting agendas, attachments, and minutes on their websites. Does posting records online meet an agency’s obligation to provide records under the public records law? In other words, if a person requests a copy of an agenda that is available online, can the public agency simply refer the requester to the online copy instead of providing a separate copy upon request? Starting July 1, 2017, the answer will be “yes.” Read more »

  • Five Common Property Tax Collection Questions & Answers

    Authored by: on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

    Are property taxes levied for the calendar year or a fiscal year?

    Property taxes seem tied to the calendar year, given the January 1 listing date.  But property taxes are actually levied for the fiscal year running from July 1 to June 30 each year. It’s especially confusing because you won’t find any definition of the fiscal year in the Machinery Act. Read more »

  • Does the HB2 Repeal Limit Zoning Authority?

    Authored by: on Thursday, April 20th, 2017

    House Bill 142—the HB2 repeal—includes a provision that prevents local governments from adopting or amending ordinances “regulating public accommodations” until December 2020.  Does that mean a local government in North Carolina cannot amend a zoning ordinance relating to restaurants, hotels, or other places of public accommodation? Are property owners required to wait until December 2020 to request and obtain a commercial rezoning?

    Very likely no.  The language of House Bill 142 and common rules of statutory interpretation indicate that House Bill 142 is limited to matters of bathroom access, private employment practices, and nondiscrimination ordinances.  As outlined below, it appears that House Bill 142 does not prevent conventional zoning ordinances or rezoning requests.  Read more »

  • HB 2 is Repealed: What Must North Carolina Units of Government Do Now?

    Authored by: on Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

    North Carolina’s well-known, and now repealed, House Bill 2 required that all multiple-person bathrooms in government buildings be “designated” for use by persons based on their biological sex (as shown on their birth certificates) and that those bathrooms be “only used” by persons based on their biological sex.

    It was never completely clear just what obligations fell to units of government to meet the “only used” requirement.  That left cities and counties and schools a little uncertain as to what to do.

    Moreover, positive steps to meet the “only used” requirement could bring units of government up against potentially competing requirements of federal anti-discrimination law, especially under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  In very recent years, the federal agencies enforcing those statutes, and to some extent the courts, have embraced interpretations that extended the statutory protections to individuals whose gender identity might not match their biological sex.

    State Law Repeal and Federal Law Development

    Now, HB 2 is repealed and has been replaced with HB 142.  With that repeal, the bathroom requirements are no longer in the law.  Laws that were in place before HB 2 are revived, as described in Norma Houston’s blog post here.  The obligations that HB 2 imposed, however, have been replaced with new prohibitions.

    At the same time, the federal law under Title VII has appeared to expand protections for employees against discrimination on the basis of gender, while the federal law under Title IX has retreated.

    Just as it was never clear under HB 2 exactly what units of local government should do to meet both state and federal obligations, it is now also not clear under the new HB 142 just what units of government must do to meet the prohibitions. Read more »

  • May a City Mow an Overgrown Lot without a Court Order?

    Authored by: on Monday, April 10th, 2017

    The Town of Manicure has been working hard to revitalize the historic neighborhood adjacent to downtown. As part of the effort to improve conditions in this and other neighborhoods, the town has been more vigilant in enforcing its overgrown lot ordinance, which prohibits property owners from allowing grass and weeds to grow above 18 inches in height. Whenever the town’s inspection department verifies that grass and weeds on property located within the corporate limits are more than 18 inches high, the owner receives a citation informing her that, if she doesn’t bring the lot into compliance within 15 calendar days, town employees will mow the lot and bill the owner for the cost of corrective action.  The town routinely follows through on such warnings without first obtaining a court order authorizing the action taken.

    May the town mow a noncompliant lot without first obtaining an order of abatement from the appropriate court? Read more »

  • HB2 Reset Beyond Bathrooms . . . Local Government Contracting Limitations Repealed

    Authored by: on Thursday, March 30th, 2017

    Earlier today the General Assembly passed H142 (S.L. 2017-4), Reset of S.L. 2016 repealing HB2 (S.L. 2016-3), the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which was enacted during a special session held in March 2016.  In repealing HB2, H142 enacts a new statute preempting state agency and local governments from regulating access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities except to the extent authorized by the General Assembly.  H142 also imposes a moratorium on local government ordinances regulating private employment practices and public accommodations. The moratorium expires on December 1, 2020.

    While HB2 is perhaps best known for its regulation of bathrooms, it also placed limits on the contracting authority of cities and counties.  This post addresses the impact of HB2’s repeal on these contracting restrictions.  The repeal brings back to life the earlier versions of these restrictions, but the new moratorium overrides some of the authority that would have been available under the pre-HB2 version of the statutes. Read more »

  • The Guardian’s Role in Health Care Decision-making

    Authored by: on Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

    A county director of social services may be appointed to serve as guardian for an adult who has been adjudicated incompetent by a clerk of superior court. Making decisions about health care, particularly end of life care, is often one of the most challenging issues a guardian may face. Sometimes, prior to being adjudicated incompetent, the adult may have expressed his or her wishes regarding some of these critical decisions. The adult may have discussed his or her wishes with family, friends or a doctor or possibly executed a health care power of attorney or living will. After the DSS director has been appointed guardian, what happens to those legal documents? How do they impact the DSS director’s authority and role as guardian?

    Please note that this blog post is not intended to provide a comprehensive overview of end of life decision-making. Rather, the purpose is to help DSS directors who serve as guardians understand their responsibilities and the legal hierarchy of decision-making during these difficult times.

    Read more »