Featured photo: Jayron32 of English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Greensboro city officials hold quarterly meetings with members of the Guilford County Legislative Delegation. On Aug. 25, local legislators Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) and Sens. Michael Garrrett (D-Guilford) and Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford) hopped on a Zoom call with Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Intergovernmental Relations Manager LaToya Caesar-Crawford to discuss legislation progress. Hired in July 2022, Caesar-Crawford is the city’s first intergovernmental relations manager and acts as a liaison for federal and state lobbying efforts on behalf of the city.
City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba and City Attorney Chuck Watts were also present, as well as Council Members Hugh Holston, Sharon Hightower, Nancy Hoffmann, Tammi Thurm and Marikay Abuzuaiter.
According to legislators, the main obstacle restricting movement on Greensboro’s items of interest has been this year’s budget — currently languishing in legislative purgatory.
State budgets are typically submitted in July, but after months of stagnation, budget finalization is now expected the week of September 11 according to lawmakers.
Here are some updates:
- A civilian traffic investigators program (H140) is now general statute (Ch. SL 2023-52) after being signed into law by Governor Cooper on June 23.
- Cities in NC may now deploy civilian personnel to investigate traffic crashes. However, investigators do not have the authority to arrest or issue criminal process. They won’t have weapons and their uniforms will be significantly different in color and style from law enforcement officers. They also will only inspect crashes involving property damage.
- Cities will establish the minimum standards for employment as an investigator who will have to attend a training program designed by the North Carolina Justice Academy. After completing the training program, each investigator shall spend a minimum of four weeks of field training with a law enforcement officer who has experience conducting traffic crash investigations.
- This bill was sponsored by reps John Faircloth (R-Guilford), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) and Stephen Ross (R-Alamance)
- The remediation plan for Bingham Park Landfill (S223) hasn’t passed yet.
- The city has requested $32 million in state funding for cleanup and waste removal.
- Situated on top of a pre-regulatory landfill, the District 1 park is an integral part of three neighborhoods: Eastside Park, Willow Oaks, and Cottage Grove. There was an incinerator on site that burned household waste from Guilford County and the US Military. In tandem with the community, the city started planning efforts to redesign and improve the park in the late 2000s. These plans were stopped short in 2010 when the NC Department of Environmental Quality designated the site as an inactive hazardous waste/pre-regulatory landfill, requiring remediation prior to the completion of park improvements. The remediation option requested by the community has a total cost of approximately $39 million.
- Sen. Robinson told the group that she’d heard from the governor’s office that $6 million has been appropriated for this project. They are still asking for additional funds. Robinson said she couldn’t say where it is in the budget, but that they’ve “made the request.”
- “We’ll take $6 million and any more you can find,” District 1 representative Hightower responded. Caesar-Crawford expanded on some of the city’s efforts to fund the project as well, noting that they have made some “very diligent efforts at the federal level” and have been working directly with the Environmental Protection Agency to explore environmental justice grants. “We just received communication… with regards to some other potential environmental justice grants at the federal level that might be appropriate for the Bingham Park project,” Caesar-Crawford said.
- There’s been little movement on a bill (H857) altering the “chronic violators of public nuisance or overgrown vegetation” ordinance. This would modify G.S. 160A-200.1.
- As the law currently stands, a “chronic violator” is a person who owns property whereupon, in the previous calendar year, the city gave notice of violation at least three times under any provision of the public nuisance ordinance. The city has proposed a modification of the term of enforcement as a rolling 12-month period instead of a calendar year, “which would really allow for us to be much more effective in addressing repeated violators of the public nuisance ordinance,” according to Caesar-Crawford.
- The bill hasn’t progressed in the House since April. Juan Pleitez, policy advisor and research assistant for Hardister’s office, blamed the budget for the standstill. “Obviously the budget proceedings have taken priority over that, I think after the budget process moves forward and comes to fruition we’ll be able to take up some more policy-oriented bills. So we haven’t seen a lot of movement on that from our office…. I know it’s been on our radar, I know it’s something that we worked in conjunction with y’all in very early meetings at the beginning of the year.”
- “That’s critically important,” Hightower noted to Pleitez, adding that she’d love to see movement on that bill because “that’s gonna help us with some enforcement in some communities” that “sorely need it.”
- The contentious bill concerning a civil service review board for Greensboro and Winston-Salem city workers came to pass on Aug. 16, but not before going through some drastic, last-minute changes. Now, instead of including all city workers, the board and its privileges will only apply to fire and police employees.
- The law paves a new way for fire and police employees in Greensboro and Winston-Salem to contest decisions such as firing or demotion via a civil service board. Workers will be able to request a hearing and go before the five-member board to plead their case.
- The city is coming to terms with the law. “We are now, as a city, coming together to determine over the next several months what we need to do next in terms of next steps,” Caesar-Crawford stated.
- “I was disappointed to see our general service workers excluded from that and maybe there’s an opportunity for inclusion at a later date,” Vaughan said.
- “I think at this point those workers feel duped if I can say that word, that they were used to get that civil service board but they were blatantly omitted. And so after having talked to some of them… they question the process,” Hightower said, adding, “There was nobody to advocate for them.”
- A new law now bans street takeovers across the state (S91).
- The law banning these reckless driving stunts goes into effect on Dec. 1. Street takeovers often involve blocking off intersections and speeding or showing off stunts like drifting, donuts, etc.
- Any person who knowingly violates the law is guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor and shall pay a minimum fine of $1,000. A subsequent violation within a two-year period is a Class H felony, including a minimum fine of $1,000 that is equal to twice the value of the vehicle involved.
- It will also be illegal to facilitate a street takeover or coordinate one through social media.
- Law enforcement may seize the vehicles of those who have violated the law.
- Any vehicle seized will be delivered to the county sheriff .
- A bill regarding the disposal of unclaimed firearms, H284, would modify G.S. 15-11.2
- The legislation hasn’t moved since March.
- What the city has proposed would allow for the head or chief of law enforcement to order the disposition of the firearms collected by their city per their discretion.
- The city is currently collecting between 1,200-1,500 firearms annually.
- Sports betting is coming to NC (H347).
- The bill authorizes and regulates betting on horse racing and professional, college and amateur sports in NC.
- Ratified on June 8, the law will go into effect in January 2024.
- “That is really good news,” said Vaughan. “We have the perfect location for it, and it would be a big revenue stream that we don’t currently have.”
- Medicaid expansion updates
- Remember those budget delays? This is a big deal for those on Medicaid, the health insurance program supporting 2.3 million low-income North Carolinians. When state lawmakers voted to expand Medicaid this year, they tied it to passing a budget. Now, dragging budget talks spell delay for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians. On August 28, the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Kody Kinsley said that the delay “tragically results in hundreds of thousands of people not being able to access care when they may need it most.” Nearly half of the people eligible for expansion would be automatically enrolled in full coverage on day one, Kinsley said.
- Kinsley told NC Newsline that if the budget slides into September or later, “we’re looking more like Dec. 1, or perhaps well into 2024” for a start date. “My heart hurts because of the tragic loss of coverage that thousands of people are experiencing each month that could stay on — 9,000 people roughly a month could stay on if expansion was in place,” Kinsley told Newsline.
- “I think it is a shame that the current delays are causing us to lose hundreds of millions of dollars a month that could be coming into our healthcare system in this state,” Kinsley said, “at no cost to the state taxpayer.”
- Sen. Robinson told the group on Aug. 25: “We had hoped that we would really be able to have a separate bill — a pullout from the budget — but that didn’t happen. So we’re just at the mercy of the budget-folk — Berger and more — in terms of getting Medicaid expansion.”
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