Spotlight on Government, Regulatory and Agriculture Reform

This session the NCGA passed four major bills dealing with Government, Regulatory and Agriculture Reform. State attractions were transferred from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources tthe Department of Cultural Resources. The transfer alscaused the renaming of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources tthe Department of Environmental Quality, and the Department of Cultural Resources was renamed the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The NCGA alssupported the Governor’s proposal tconsolidate all of the state’s information technology by establishing the new cabinet-level Department of Information Technology. On November 23, 2015, Chris Estes announced he would be stepping down as State Chief Information Officer. His last day was November 29, 2015. Deputy State Chief Information Officer Keith Werner will serve as acting Chief Information Officer until the Governor names Estes’ replacement.

The following bills became law during 2015:

H97, Appropriations Act of 2015

  • Consolidates all state attractions under the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, including:
    • The Division of Parks and Recreation
    • The State Parks System, including Mount Mitchell State Park
    • The North Carolina Aquariums Division
    • The North Carolina Zoological Park
    • The Museum of Natural Sciences
    • Clean Water Management Trust Fund
    • The Natural Heritage Program, within the Office of Land and Water Stewardship
    • North Carolina Parks and Recreation Authority
    • North Carolina Trails Committee
    • North Carolina Zoological Park Council
    • Advisory Commission for North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences
    • Clean Water Management Trust Fund Board of Trustees
  • Creates a study treview and report on further efficiencies in the organization of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality
  • Creates a Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Economic Resources tstudy the programs, organization, operations, and policies of the following agencies:
    • Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
    • Department of Environmental Quality
    • Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
    • Wildlife Resources Commission
    • Department of Labor
    • Department of Commerce
    • Any other agency under the jurisdiction of the Senate and House of Representatives appropriations committees on agriculture, natural, or economic resources
  • Establishes the Department of Information Technology
    • The Department is a cabinet-level department charged with consolidating all state government IT functions, powers, duties and obligations
    • The Governor appoints the head of the Department, the State Chief Information Officer

H44, Local Government Regulatory Reform 2015

  • Provides local governments different options for notice tchronic violators of overgrown vegetation ordinances
  • Authorizes cities tregulate uninhabitable structures that unreasonably restrict the public’s right tuse the state’s ocean beaches
  • Prohibits local governments from requiring compliance with voluntary state rules and regulations or rules and regulations with a delayed effective date
  • Repeals the requirement local governments comprising the local health department maintain operating appropriations from local ad valorem taxes
  • Provides developers of property located partly within the municipality options t1) apply the county land use planning ordinances tthe entire property or 2) apply the municipality’s ordinances tthe portion within the municipality and the county ordinances tthe rest of the property
  • Allows local governments tpermit irrigation and drinking water wells
  • Limits fence wrapping signage tadvertising sponsored by a person directly involved in the construction of the project
  • Removes exception for zoning permits from the Permit Choice statutes, NC Gen. Stat. § 143-755
  • Makes various changes tthe Preaudit Certification statutes, effective October 1, 2015
  • Limits local governments’ ability tregulation beehives.
  • Requires notices tadjacent property owners prior tthe start of any construction project, but limits the notice period t15 days
  • Includes modifications triparian buffer regulations
  • Requires zoning density ordinances tprovide credits or severable development rights for dedicated rights-of-way
  • Makes various changes tinspections of buildings certified by licensed architects or licensed engineers
  • Clarifies local governments’ authority tdefine bedroom.
  • Provides more flexibility tcities regarding development agreements

H765, Regulatory Reform Act of 2015

  • Shifts the burden of proof in certain contested cases
  • Exempts small business entities buying or selling entity-owned property from obtaining a license issued by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission
  • Amends the definition of “employee” under the Workers’ Compensation Act texclude volunteers and officers of certain nonprofits
  • Expands the Good Samaritan law tbreaking intor out of railroad cars, motor vehicles, trailers, aircraft, boats or other watercrafts if a medical emergency is apparent
  • Directs the Environmental Review Commission tstudy open and fair competition with respect tmaterials used in wastewater, stormwater, and other water projects
  • Creates twstudies on 1) electronic recycling programs and 2) permitting and recycling programs for utility-scale solar projects
  • Amends the risk-based remediation statutes
  • Amends the definition for “prospective developer” under brownfields redevelopments
  • Amends the isolated wetlands law and stormwater management law
  • Mandates the Department of Environmental Quality tstudy and evaluate the water quality of surface waters in Coastal Counties and the impact of stormwater on this water quality
  • Creates a study of flood elevations and building height requirements

S513, North Carolina Farm Act of 2015

  • Establishes a policy supporting sound science in agriculture
  • Restores the transfer of the captive cervid program from the Wildlife Resources Commission tthe Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Provides that an employer does not have twithhold State income tax on income paid tan H-2A agricultural worker where federal income tax is not required tbe withheld
  • Directs the Department of Transportation testablish rules tallow permitted oversized vehicles toperate between sunset and sunrise, including Sundays and certain holidays (current law does not permit operation on Sundays and holidays)
  • Allows any person toperate an all-terrain vehicle on a public street when in connection with farming operations
  • Prohibits the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality from excluding any area from shellfish cultivation because of the presence of submerged aquatic vegetation, unless prohibited by federal law
  • Makes changes tthe present-use value taxation
  • Prohibits termination of certain Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund easements, for the purpose of economic development
  • Makes modifications tthe implementation of animal waste management system regulations, including modifications tcertain swine waste management system performance standards
  • Clarifies what structures are included under the definition of “farm building”

Legislation tWatch For in 2016

H98, Budget Technical Corrections 
H141, Stormwater/Flood Control Activities 
H332, Energy Policy Amendments 
H483, Land Use Regulatory Changes 
H593, Amend Environmental Laws 
H760, Regulatory Reform Act of 2015 
S391, County Omnibus Legislation

Find the NCGA memorandum regarding bills eligible for consideration by the General Assembly during the 2016 short session here.