United States: North Carolina General Assembly Week In Review: Transportation Spotlight

ICYMI, Political News

Member announcements continued this week with three more legislators announcing they will not be seeking reelection. Rep. Paul Tine (U-Dare), Rep. Leo Daughtry (R-Johnston), Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer (R-Mecklenburg) announced that they will finish their current term, but will not seek reelection for the 2017-18 General Assembly. Additionally, State Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson (D-NC) has announced she intends to run for reelection in 2016. However, Treasurer Janet Cowell (D-NC) announced on Tuesday she would not be seeking reelection next year.

Also in the news, Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) signed SB 676, Autism Health Insurance Coverage in Charlotte on Thursday. The legislation provides insurance coverage for the treatment of Autism by requiring qualified health benefits plans to provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of Autism. Gov. McCrory released the following statement:

“The families and caregivers of those with autism need every tool we can provide to get their loved ones treatment …This new law is not a silver bullet, but for many North Carolina families, it is a huge step in the right direction.”

FYI: Filing Deadlines

HB 373, Elections, was signed by Governor Pat McCrory (R-NC) on September 30, 2015. The bill changed the candidate filing deadlines and moved all 2016 NC primaries to March. The new deadlines are as follows:

December 1, 2015: Candidate filing begins

December 21, 2015: Candidate filing closes

December 16, 2015: Political parties must submit presidential preference candidates

March 3, 2016: Early voting will begin

March 12, 2016: Early voting ends

March 15, 2016: NC Primary Election

Read HB 373 here.

DOT announces new Secretary of Transit

On Monday the NC Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Keith Weatherly will serve as the new Deputy Secretary of Transit. Weatherly is currently serving that position in an interim capacity and previously served as DOT’s Deputy Secretary of Legislative Affairs and as Interagency Director. Weatherly also previously served as the Mayor of Apex, NC, and Chief of Staff to NC House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam.

Read the NCDOT Press Release here.

NCGA Focuses on Transportation Issues During the 2015 Session

The 2015 session NC transportation and infrastructure needs were at the forefront of the 2015 session. The 2015 Appropriations Act, HB 97, provided $708 million in new, recurring revenue. Further, SB 20, Gas Tax Stabilization, added $450 million in additional transportation funding, reaching a total of $1.158 billion in additional transportation funding over the next two fiscal years, much to the credit and leadership of Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston) and Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick). Finally, with HB 943, the NC General Assembly voted to invest in NC infrastructure needs by putting a bond referendum on the 2016 Presidential Primary ballot in NC totaling $2 billion, due to the leadership of Rep. Torbett and Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union).

Another important transportation bill from the 2015 session was HB 927, Reestablish NC As the “Good Roads State.” HB 927 contained a wide array of long-term infrastructure funding reforms, the majority of provisions passed within the state budget. The detailed plan was led by Rep. Torbett, redefining how the state will collect and spend transportation revenue. Key provisions include cutting the gas tax gas and increasing revenue from other sources – like the highway use tax and vehicle registration fees – while phasing out Highway Trust Fund transfer to the General Fund over four years.

McGuireWoods Consulting and our clients were directly involved in several policy successes, leading efforts with coalitions addressing long-term transportation solutions.

Gas Tax Stabilization

SB 20, IRC Update/Motor Fuel Tax Changes, signed into law earlier this year at the end of March, implements a new motor fuel tax formula tied to future population growth, streamlines procedures for the long-term delivery of transportation projects and appropriates $70 million for port modernization projects. The new law cuts the gas tax to 36 cents per gallon and phases in a new formula by 2017 that stabilizes the rate changes based on population changes, gradually falling to 34 cents.

Read SB 20 here.

2015 Appropriations Act: Transportation Funding

NC General Assembly budget chairs provided $708 million in additional funding for transportation needs in NC in the 2015 Appropriations Act, HB 97. Below are some highlights from the Transportation section of the budget.

Repeal Highway Fund Transfer

The Appropriations Act repealed the transfer of $216 million from the Highway Fund to the General Fund.

Increase DMV fees

All Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) fees will increase under the 2015 Appropriations Act, the first time in a decade. The increase in the fees will be used toward funding additional Strategic Transportation Investment projects and DMV modernization. On Monday, Governor McCrory announced that online driver license renewal will be available statewide. The service is one of the changes implemented by the Governor’s “Driving Change” initiative.

Driver Education

Driver education is fully funded and requires comprehensive data collection and a study of how to improve the program.

Road Funding

The Appropriations Act provides additional funding for transportation improvements such as $440 million in additional road funding, the amount in new projects was increased by $337 million over the next two fiscal years (2015-16 and 2016-17).

State Funding Caps

It caps the state funding for light rail projects at $500,000 per project The Appropriations Act increases the statewide cap for turnpike projects from nine to eleven projects, total, and implemented a study of the Turnpike Authority Processing fee to be reported by March 1, 2016 to the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee.

Repairs and Renovations

Additional nonrecurring funding is provided for repair and renovation projects included in NCDOT’s Capital Improvements Plan, $5 million in 2015-16 and almost $7 million in 2016-17.

Waterway and Coastal Improvements

Also provided is additional funding for our waterways and coast, $70 million for port modernization, and over $57 million in FYI 2015-16 and over $89 million in 2016-17 for the bridge program. The Appropriations Act changed the distribution of motor fuel tax revenue to the Shall Draft Navigation Channel & Lake Dredging Fund to 1%, netting $10.96 million in FY 2015-16 and 10.39 million in FY 2016-17 and provided $35 million in recurring funding for the North Carolina State Ports Authority.

Read HB 97 here.

NC Bond Act 2015

Included in the Appropriations Act, HB 97, was a blueprint for the $2 billion infrastructure bond for capital projects, later included in HB 943, Connect NC Bond Act of 2015. The finance portion of the state budget was contingent on HB 943 passing both House and Senate chambers before January 1, 2016. NC voters will have a chance to vote on this issue on the 2016 Presidential Primary ballot in March.

The bill authorizes the State to issue $2 billion in bonds for economic development and infrastructure projects, upon approval by the majority of NC primary voters. The bond package has been a priority for the Governor this session, the bill requiring the economic development and infrastructure projects funded by the bond to be consistent with Governor Pat McCrory’s Connect NC Plan.

The following projects are among those listed in HB 943, set to benefit from the bond funding if the bond is approved by voters in March:

$980 million total-University of North Carolina

Includes varying appropriations for new construction projects and renovations for 15 of the 16 state universities. Elizabeth City State University is not listed as receiving funding from the Bond. However the University received a $3 million nonrecurring appropriation in the Appropriations Act, HB 97, to stabilize enrollment and be used for enhancing technology related to enrollment and recruitment of students, campus access and safety, and human resource management.

$350 million total-NC Community Colleges

Includes varying appropriations for new construction, repairs, and renovations funding for all of North Carolina’s 58 Community Colleges.

$312.5 million total-Local Parks and Infrastructure

Provides 3 million for the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources to issue matching grants for children with disabilities and veterans with disabilities. Also provides $309.5 million for the Department of Environmental Quality to provide loans and grants for water/sewer.

$70 million for the National Guard’s Readiness Centers in Guilford, Burke and Wilkes Counties.

$179 million total-Agriculture projects

Provides $85 million to NC State University for its Plan Sciences Building Ag/NCSU Partnership. Also provides $94 million to Agriculture and Consumer Services for a Veterinary/Food/Drug/Motor Fuels Lab.

$100 million total-State Parks and Attractions

$8.5 million for the Samarcand Training Academy in Moore County

Read HB 943 here.

Transportation Bills Passed in 2015

H6, Autocycle Definition and Regulation

H13, Amend School Health Assessment Requirement.

H41, Rev Laws Tech Changes.

H91, Study Misuse of Handicapped Parking Placards.

H97, 2015 Appropriations Act

H102, Utility Vehicles/Move-Over Changes

H148, Insurance Required for Mopeds

H232, Study/Update Bicycle Safety Laws

H262, Surplus Lines Amendments

H268, Amend Transportation Laws.-AB

H273, Clarify Cond. Discharge Law/No DWI Expunge.

H288, Insurance Technical Changes.-AB

H350, Restore Driving Privileges/Competency.

H434, Handicap Placard/Med. Recertification.

H529, NC Drivers License Restoration Act.

H800, Clarify Motor Vehicle Dealer Laws.

H924, Highway Safety/Other Changes

H943, Connect NC Bond Act of 2015

S20, IRC Update/Motor Fuel Tax Changes

S43, CDLs for Veterans Revisions

S52, Cities/Means For Activating Parking Meters

S90, Required Number of Operating Brake Lights

S174, Rail Corridor Lease/City of Wilmington

S182, Automatic License Plate Readers.

S195, Motor Vehicle Service Agreement Amendments

S273, Motor Vehicle Tax: Waive Penalties/Interest

S299, Port Usage Contracts/Public Records

S301, DOT/Purchase of Contaminated Land.-AB

S345, Limit Storage Duration for Damaged Vehicle.

S370, E-Signatures/Vehicle Title and Registration.

S446, Dealer Loaners/Unmanned Aircraft/Brunswick Co.

S448, Equalize Tax on Propane Used as a Motor Fuel

S513, North Carolina Farm Act of 2015

S541, Regulate Transportation Network Companies

S621, Registration Renewal Notice/E-Mail.-AB

S654, Map Act/Clarifications

Legislation to watch in 2016

See below a list of bills relevant to transportation issues that are also eligible to be considered during the 2016 session. Let us know if you have any questions about a particular bill whether or not included in the list below.

DWI Law/ Safety/Traffic Violations

  • H31 =S308, 0.00 Alcohol Restriction-All DWI
    Senate Judiciary I
  • H32, Amend Habitual DWI
    Senate Judiciary I
  • H136, Speed Limit/Highway Work Zone
    Senate Rules
  • H142 =S144, Require Safety Helmets/Under 21
    House Rules
  • H192, Compliance Court Costs (includes motor vehicle violations)
    House Judiciary I
  • H328, Highway Safety/Citizens Protection Act
    House Finance
  • H335, Evidence Passed Vehicle is a School Bus
    Senate Rules
  • H338, Fail to Obtain DL/Increase Punishment
    House Rules
  • H711=H753, Prohibit Counterfeit/Nonfunctional Air Bags
    Senate Rules
  • H877, Ignition Interlock Req’d/All DWI
    House Judiciary II
  • S200, Eliminate Safety Insp./Modify Emission Insp.
    Senate Rules
  • S298 =H536, School Bus Cameras/Civil Penalties
    House Appropriations
  • S378, Increase Punishment/Misd. Death by Vehicle
    In Conference committee

Inspections/General and Local Government

  • H72, SOG Pilot Project Standards
    House Appropriations
  • H74, MPO/RPO Oversight
    Senate Rules
  • H169, Limit Motor Vehicle Emissions inspections
    Senate Transportation
  • H282, Streamline Seized Vehicle Disposal-AB
    House Finance
  • H464, Regional Transportation Authority Revisions
    Senate Transportation
  • H551, DOT Sales of Unused Property
    Senate Transportation
  • H569, Rural County Dev. Funds for Road Const.
    Senate Transportation
  • S539, DOT/Workforce Reduction Compliance
    Senate Rules

Fuel Tax Modifications/Finance

  • H203, Phaseout of Fuel Tax
    House Transportation
  • H257, Clean Fuel Tax Reduction
    House Finance
  • H494, Equalize Tax on Propane Used as a Motor Fuel
    House Finance
  • H496=S428, Surcharge Transparency
    Senate Insurance
  • H685, Cap Amount Owed for Unpaid Open Road Toll
    House Finance
  • H750, Encourage LNG-Fueled Vehicles
    House Regulatory Reform
  • S188, Adjust Cap on Turnpike Projects
    House Transportation
  • S217, Distribution of Highway Use Tax and Fees
    Senate Finance
  • S383, Study/Fund Improvements/Interstate Hwys.
    House Rules
  • S417, Habitual Impaired Driving/10-Year Period
    Senate Transportation
  • S605, Various Changes to the Revenue Laws
    Senate Rules (On concurrence)

Waterways

  • H93, Eliminate Tolling on Ferries
    House Appropriations
  • H478, Brunswick Cty/Navigable Waters
    Senate Transportation
  • H663, Repeal Boating Fee Increases
    House Finance
  • H672, STI and Ferry Tolling Revisions
    House Appropriations
  • S113, Ferry Division/Fuel Futures
    Senate Transportation
  • S160, Enhance Safety & Commerce for Ports/Inlets
    House Transportation
  • S382, RFI/Privatization of Ferry System
    House Transportation

Aircrafts

  • H4, Clarify Unmanned Aircraft System Law
    Senate Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources
  • H567, NC Aircraft Repair Act
    Senate Rules
  • S187, Air Carrier Fuel Tax Exemption
    Senate Finance

Other

  • H182 =S208, Property Insurance Fairness
    Senate Insurance Committee
  • H183, Repeal Map Act
    Senate Transportation
  • H479, Auto Salvage Dealer Protection Act
    Senate Judiciary II
  • H523, Drivers License Designation/American Indian
    Senate Transportation
  • H532, WC Truck Driver Status
    House Rules (On Concurrence)
  • H550, Clarify Dealer Plate Requirements
    Senate Transportation
  • H564, Exempt Motorcoach Manufacturer & Distributor
    Senate Rules
  • H594, Clarify Sale of Antique & Specialty Vehicles
    Senate Transportation
  • S312, Motor Fleet Telematics Pilot Project
    Senate Transportation
  • S393, Brian Garlock Act
    Senate Rules
  • S600, Study/Autonomous Vehicles-AB
    House Rules
  • S668, Auto Insurance/Allow Optional Enhancements
    House Insurance
  • S673=H800, Clarify Motor Vehicle Dealer Laws
    House Commerce and Job Development
  • S674, Truck Dealer Cost Reimbursement
    House Judiciary I

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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