The North Carolina General Assembly has returned to Raleigh for its "short session", and the legislative bodies are already off to the races with proposed legislation affecting land use controls and local government powers in the State. It's Friday, and it's a sunny and cool afternoon. So, let's take a quick, breezy review of what's in the queue.
Local Governments and Limits on "Aesthetic and Design" Controls of Residences
We've blogged last year here and here about a bill that would limit when local governments can set standards for the architecture, appearance or other design of single- or double-family homes. The bill passed the House last session, and is scheduled to make its way to the Senate beginning on Monday. There are exceptions in the bill for historic areas -- like the Oakwood section of Raleigh, subject of national attention -- but some of the newer zoning laws developing nationwide, such as Raleigh's new "form-based" code, might be open to challenge if the bill becomes law.
Local Privilege License Taxes
Privilege license taxes have come into the spotlight in the wake of a North Carolina Supreme Court decision striking a tax assessed against a sweepstakes business in the City of Lumberton. Accordingly, the House has proposed an omnibus tax bill -- House Bill 1050 -- that includes a provision that would cap local privilege license taxes at $100 for most businesses. Proponents feel the provision will maintain an equitable system across the State and will move to eliminate an allegedly problematic method of taxation, which is based on revenues and can involve an unwelcomed inspection of business records. Opponents fear that local governments will lose out on a stream of revenue as a result of the cap resulting in higher property taxes, or will lose out on the ability to assess against the government resources consumed by such a business.
Local Government Regulation of Fertilizers
On the lighter side, a bill introduced yesterday into the Senate -- Senate Bill 734 (May 15, 2014) -- seeks to "clarify the authority of local governments to adopt certain agricultural and environmental ordinances". The proposed legislation aims to prevent local governments in North Carolina from regulating the "use, sale, distribution, storage, transportation, disposal, formulation, labeling, registration, manufacture, or application of fertilizer in any area subject to regulation by [the Board of Agriculture]". The zoning powers are carved from this prohibition, as are the fire prevention and inspection powers vested with local governments. We'll follows these as they wind through the system, and we'll continue to watch what's happening in Raleigh before the members break for the summer.
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"How does a bill become a law, you ask? Simple. First, it's bitten by a radioactive spider."