Recent Blog Posts

  • An Update on COVID-19 Vaccination for Local Government Employers

    Authored by: on Thursday, March 4th, 2021

    UPDATED MARCH 25, 2021

    Starting now, many, but not all, local government employees are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations.  In an earlier blog post, I outlined North Carolina’s vaccination priority plan. The state has made changes to the plan to align it more closely with the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations and with the realities of vaccine availability. A recent increase in the supply of vaccines means that more local government employees are now eligible. Read more »

  • One Year of COVID-19 in North Carolina

    Authored by: on Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

    The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in North Carolina was announced one year ago today, on March 3, 2020. Since that date, the state has recorded over 860,000 cases and over 11,000 deaths due to COVID-19. The state’s Black, Latino, and Native American populations have experienced disproportionate rates of illness and death, exacerbating health inequities that were already known to exist. Read more »

  • Time for Cities, Counties, and School Boards to Redistrict, But No Numbers!

    Authored by: on Monday, March 1st, 2021

    Update March 4, 2021In the days since this blog was posted, readers have sent me corrections to my lists.  I am very grateful.  The post below is updated to fix the lists.  I think they are right now, but if anyone spots problems, please let me know.

    Here is the updated post:

    These North Carolina cities have a problem, and there may be little they can do about it except wait and see if the General Assembly gives them some direction:

    Ahoskie, Cary, Charlotte, Clinton, Edenton, Elizabeth City, Enfield, Erwin, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville, Henderson, Hickory, Jacksonville, Kings Mountain, Lake Waccamaw, Laurinburg, Lexington, Longview, Lumberton, Mooresville, Mt. Olive, New Bern, Plymouth, Princeville, Raleigh, Roanoke Rapids, Rocky Mount, Sanford, St. Pauls, Siler City, Smithfield, Statesville, Tarboro, Whiteville, and Wilson.

    They all have city elections coming up in 2021, and they all elect city council members from true electoral districts—meaning that only the voters of that district vote for that council seat.  Every time there is a federal census, as there was in 2020, they must take the new census numbers, apply them to the old electoral districts, and determine whether the districts have gotten out of population balance over the course of 10 years since the last census.  If they have, then the city council must draw new districts to bring them back into balance.  Failure to do that is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    After the census of 1990, cities drew new districts in 1991.  And after the 2000 census, they drew new districts in 2001.  And again after the 2010 census, new districts in 2011.

    The schedule was always tight.  The census numbers always came out in February or March, and the new districts had to be in place in time for the July candidate filling period ahead of the November elections.  Cities had to hustle to get it done.

    This year is dramatically different.  The U.S. Census Bureau has said that the numbers needed for redistricting will not be available in February or March.  In fact, they may not be available until the end of September. Read more »

  • Tax Tips for a Resurgent Real Estate Market

    Authored by: on Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

    I’ve written several blog posts about how the pandemic might affect local taxes (here, here, here, and here), focusing mostly on negative economic news.  But there is at least one positive economic development from the pandemic that will impact property taxes; the residential real estate market is very strong across most of North Carolina.

    In the Wilmington area, the number of residential sales were up 22% in 2020 as compared to 2019, with sales prices increasing over 10%.  The same is true in Charlotte (prices up 11%) and in the Triangle (sales up 11%).

    Here are a few tax tips to keep in mind as residential sales heat up.

    Read more »

  • Using Web-Based Scheduling Applications to Make Appointments for COVID-19 Vaccination Events: HHS Issues Notice of Enforcement Discretion

    Authored by: on Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

    COVID-19 vaccinations are beginning to be made available to the public. As of this writing, health care workers and adults age 65 or older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina. As vaccine roll-out continues, additional groups of individuals will become eligible.

    North Carolina local health departments are critical partners in the effort to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to large numbers of people rapidly. They are also HIPAA-covered entities that must comply with regulations including the HIPAA Privacy Rule, the Security Rule, and the Breach Notification Rule. Among other things, these rules require covered health care providers to maintain the security of individually identifiable health information that is collected or maintained electronically, including information that is collected for the purpose of scheduling appointments for health care services. Determining how to schedule appointments for individuals while not violating these rules has posed a challenge to HIPAA-covered providers operating large-scale COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

    On Tuesday, January 19, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) —the HIPAA enforcement agency—issued a Notice of Enforcement Discretion (NED) stating that OCR will not impose penalties against covered health care providers or their business associates who use online or web-based scheduling applications to schedule individual appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations, provided the health care provider or business associate acts in good faith. The enforcement discretion is effective retroactively to December 11, 2020, and will remain in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Read on for additional details. Read more »

  • So Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency FMLA Leave Have Expired?  Should We Extend?

    Authored by: on Monday, January 4th, 2021

    The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, commonly called the stimulus bill and signed into law on December 27, 2020, let the leave requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expire.  No longer are employers obligated by law to grant employees 80 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons (emergency paid sick leave or EPSL) and up to 12 weeks of paid FMLA leave (emergency Family and Medical Leave Act or EFMLA) to care for a child whose place of care or school is closed for COVID-19 related reasons. The requirement expired on December 31. Look at this blog post. In response to that news, I have received a number of questions about voluntarily extending these benefits. This blog post addresses some of those questions.  Read more »

  • FFCRA Not Extended; Expires December 31, 2020

    Authored by: on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

    The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed in March as the federal government’s first response to the COVID-19 crisis, is a law with many parts. The Emergency Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act are the two most familiar to public employers. The stimulus bill that passed late last night (December 21, just before midnight) extended portions of the FFCRA. It did not extend the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. Those laws and the benefits they provided to employees expire at midnight, December 31, 2020. Read more »