Legislative Briefing ~ 4.4.18

Legislative Briefing ~ 4.4.18

Voter Registration/Early Voting/Candidate Forum Info

One-stop absentee voting – commonly referred to as early voting – begins on Thursday, April 19th and runs through Saturday, May 5th for the May 8th Primary Election. Early voting allows any registered voter to cast an absentee ballot in person on select days prior to Election Day. Unlike on Election Day, when registered voters can only vote at their specific precinct, one-stop voting allows registered voters to vote at any one-stop absentee voting site in the county. When voting at a one-stop site, you may change your name or address, if it needs to be updated.

Dare County locations:

Dare County Administration Building, Manteo
Pitts Center, Southern Shores
Kill Devil Hills Town Hall
Fessenden Center, Buxton
For Dare County location hours and more information, click here.

Currituck County location: Board of Elections office

One-Stop Voting Hours:
April 19 – May 2, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 3 and Friday, May 4: 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 5: 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Registered voters who do not cast ballots during the One-Stop period may vote on May 8 at their assigned polling precinct. All precincts will be open on May 8 from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Anyone with questions may call the Currituck Board of Elections at 252-232-2525.

Currituck Primary Election Sample Ballots:
Democratic Primary
Republican Primary

Register to Vote: If you are not already registered or want to change your party affiliation, you have to do so by Friday, April 13th to vote in the May 8th Primary.
Just complete and return the NC Voter Registration Application to the Dare or Currituck Board of Elections office. You can also find the voter registration applications at the library, town hall offices and various public assistance agencies.
Candidate Forum: A Candidate Forum, sponsored by the Outer Banks Voice, will be held in Dare County on Friday, April 20th at Waveriders Deli in Nags Head starting at 7 pm.
Coverage in The Outer Banks Voice: Boswell elusive as Voice sets forum for legislative candidates

Flood Insurance Program Reauthorized/Rate Increase Announced

On March 23rd, President Trump signed the $1.3 trillion Omnibus spending bill. The legislation funds the government through September and spans multiple budget areas.
Of significance to our area, the bill extends the National Flood Insurance Program until July 31, 2018 giving the Senate several more months to act on a 5-year reauthorization and reform legislation adopted by the House last November.
The bill includes doubling the flood map funding to $263 million, up from $177 million in the previous year and more than a 150% increase over the Administration’s request this year. Also included in the bill is maintaining funding for flood mitigation, proofing and elevation of properties ($175 million) as well as $5 million for the Office of the Flood Insurance Consumer Advocate.
On a separate note, FEMA announced that flood insurance rates will be increasing this year:
Insurance Journal : Federal Flood Insurance Average Premium to Rise 8%
FEMA Officials: Flood Insurance Premiums to Rise this Year

More on the Omnibus Spending Bill – Impact on Real Estate, From NAR

The 2,232-page Omnibus Spending Bill contains important provisions related to housing that REALTORS® have been fighting for, including alleviating the weakening of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) from the new tax law, and extending the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through at least mid-summer (see above). Below are highlights of the bill that most directly impact real estate.

Business Issues Broadband
The bill calls for an additional $600 million in broadband funding to be distributed through the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). The funding authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to create a pilot program within RUS that distributes the new funding in the form of grants and loans. There are details to be worked out, but the authorization calls for “expedited” delivery of the program. The funding bill mandated a few conditions; they include:
Ninety percent of the households served by any project funded through this program must be unserved or underserved and can’t currently have 10/1 Mbps broadband access.
Any entity receiving funds from the program is prohibited from overbuilding an existing RUS borrower.
No more than 4% of funds received through the program can be used towards administrative costs.
Census Bureau
The omnibus increases Census Bureau funding from the current $1.32b level for 2018 to $2.81b but allows the Census Bureau to tap these funds through 2020. By stipulating this timeframe, the bill seemingly allows the Census Bureau to spend funds allocated for but not used in 2018 in 2019 and/or 2020 and does not affect the 2019 or 2020 budget requests.
The administration had requested $1.6b for FY 2018, while NAR along with the Census Project coalition were seeking $1.8b.
Of this sum, funding for the “current surveys and programs,” which covers surveys other than the decennial census, was increased by $27m to $270m, in line with what NAR and the coalition had requested. The bulk of the funds are devoted to the decennial census.
Historically, funding for the Census ramped up in the three years prior to the decennial census. Current funding lags minimum levels to support the decennial census, so this increase and the long window for accessing the funds helps bridge the deficit.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
Since the CFPB is not funded through Congressional appropriations, but by transfers upon request from the Federal Reserve, the Omnibus has no impact on CFPB’s operations.
Immigration Programs
The Omnibus Budget agreement would extend authorizations for the following programs through Sept. 2018:
The E-Verify Program, which allows employers to check whether employees are authorized to work in the U.S.
The EB-5 Regional Center Program, which provides visas to foreign nationals who pool their investments in regional centers to finance local projects.
H-2B Visa Program – The Homeland Security Department’s authority to increase a cap on the number of temporary foreign workers who can enter the U.S. through the H-2B visa program.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Reports and Statements
Under the terms of the Omnibus, the OMB is required to report within 90 days to Congress the costs of implementing Dodd-Frank and also provide a statement of the budgetary impact of executive orders or Presidential memorandums, including costs (if regulatory costs are greater than $100 million), benefits, and revenues.
Commercial
Brownfields:
Provides $26 million for Brownfields activities via the EPA.
Provides $48 million for Brownfields grants through EPA grant programs.
Reauthorizes the EPA’s Brownfields program through FY 2023 at $200 million per year (less than the current funding of $250 million/year).
Increases the amount the EPA may provide per brownfields site and establishes a new grant program for cleanups by an entity at more than one brownfield sites.
Raises the cap on grants for brownfield cleanups from $200k to $500k per site, and allows the EPA to further raise the cap to $650k per site if it considers it necessary based on the level of contamination, size, or ownership status of the site.
Caps administrative costs for brownfield clean-up projects at 5%.
FAA/Drones
$18 billion for FAA programs, $1.6 billion (10%) more than 2017.
$24 million for research on unmanned aerial systems, $17 million more than 2017 funding level.
Small Business Administration:
Omnibus funds the SBA at $701 million, a 21% decrease from FY 2017.
$156 million of that total is allocated to business loan programs, a decrease of $844,000 from FY 2017).
Increases the mandate for the Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation include examining the challenges of small businesses. The Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation is within the SEC. It is responsible for developing proposals and recommendations for Congress to promote the interests of small businesses, mitigate problems small businesses experience and help them secure access to credit. Specifically, it looks at challenges experienced by minority and women-owned businesses; the Omnibus includes language expanding that mandate to include the challenges faced by small businesses hit by hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Conventional Financing
Student Loan Debt:
Provides $22.5 billion in discretionary funding for Pell Grants, equal to FY 2017. The maximum Pell Grant is increased in FY 2018 to $6,095.
As student debt levels rise, Pell Grants help alleviate the rising higher education financial burden for students.
Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae):
Limits the guaranteed commitments made by Ginnie Mae to $500 billion, which is equal to both the 2017 level as well as the request from the Administration. The FY18 omnibus also provides $27 million for administrative expenses. Ginnie Mae’s expected revenue is estimated at $1.7 billion, which is used to offset other appropriations in the measure.
The Government National Mortgage Association, also known as Ginnie Mae, guarantees investors the timely payment of principal and interest on mortgage-backed securities that are backed by federally insured or federally guaranteed loans, including those issued by the FHA or the Veterans Affairs Department.
Business Development Companies (BDCs):
Modifies the asset coverage ratio of BDCs from 200% to 150% and removes some restrictions to allow BDCs to invest in certain financial companies and allows them to operate under regulations similar to other SEC registrants. Additionally, the measure requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to alter its BDC regulations to make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to access capital.
A business development company (BDC) is an organization that invests in and helps small and medium-size companies grow in the initial stages of their development. In addition to spurring investment in privately owned small and mid-sized American companies, BDCs provide opportunities for smaller, non-accredited investors to invest in startup companies.
Environment and Energy Issues
Wildfires
The Omnibus bill creates a $2.19 billion off-budget disaster fund for wildfires in 2020, which would grow to $2.95 billion by 2027. Lawmakers also agreed to devote an additional $500 million a year to wildfire management in 2018 and 2019, until the new arrangement takes effect. Overall, the Forest Service would receive $6 billion this fiscal year, including $2.8 billion for wildfire management.
The bill also provides more flexibility to allow forest thinning in areas the Forest Service considers a wildfire risk. It gives the Forest Service more flexibility to move ahead with such projects while sorting out issues around the ESA. It also provides for categorical exclusions for removal of hazardous fuels in national forests from the National Environmental Policy Act, covering up to 3,000 acres.
Federal Housing Issues Community Development Block Grants
The bill provides for $3.3 billion to Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, a $305 million increase from 2017. CDBG funds are used by local governments to address affordable housing, job creation and other economic issues facing their communities.
HOME Investment Partnerships
The bill provides almost $1.4 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships program, a $412 million increase from 2017. HOME funding provides grants to state and local governments to produce affordable housing for low-income families. Eligible uses of HOME include down payment assistance, rental assistance, rehabilitation of affordable housing, and development.
Lead Hazard Reduction
The bill provides $230 million for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Lead Hazard Reduction Program and Health Homes Initiative, an $85 million increase from 2017. These programs provide funding to state and local governments to reduce lead based hazards and promote health and safety for children and families in their homes.
Federal Tax
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC):
The Omnibus makes significant improvements to the LIHTC. NAR, as a key part of a larger coalition, fought for those improvements. The changes were supported by both Democrats and Republicans.
The improvements, which include a 12.5 percent increase in the dollar amounts of the LIHTC authority for calendar years 2018 through 2021 as well a change in the average income test, are viewed as the most important housing legislation in years. They should result in hundreds of thousands of new affordable housing units built throughout the country.
These improvements will help alleviate the weakening of the credit that occurred from last year’s tax reform bill. That legislation lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, thus greatly weakening the incentive value of the LIHTC.
Transportation Funding
The Department of Transportation (DOT) will receive a total of $86.2 billion to improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure in fiscal year 2018. This includes an increase of $8.7 billion in discretionary appropriations for fiscal year 2018 over 2017.
Highways receive a total of $45 billion from Highway Trust Fund, as authorized under the FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation adopted in 2015).
Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER grants), $1.5 billion for state and local projects that are multimodal (more than one transportation option, increasing connectivity). Projects approved are merit-based and intended to improve a community’s economic competitiveness. These grants are discretionary and require Congress to appropriate funding each year.
Rail is funded at $3.1 billion for Amtrak, rail safety and improvements.
Transit will receive a total of $13.5 billion for building, maintaining and ensuring safety on mass transit systems at the local level.
Maritime will receive $980 million for increased productivity and efficiency for the nation’s ports.
Road safety is included at $947 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to conduct research and development of technology to save lives.

Dwelling Rate Filing Update

Thanks to members of OBAR and OBHBA for participating in the recent Call for Action, the NC Department of Insurance reviewed over 1,700 comments on the recent Dwelling Insurance Rate Filing! The deadline for comments was Friday, March 23rd with the majority of comments submitted the last two days of the public comment period. Dare Board Chairman Bob Woodward, Dare Commissioner Wally Overman and Dare County Manager Bobby Outten were three of four people that spoke during the morning session of the public forum held in Raleigh on the 23rd. All expressed opposition to the very high extended coverage (wind) increases proposed by the NC Rate Bureau and requested that the Filing be denied!
While the Rate Bureau has requested a statewide average rate increase of 18.9 percent for dwelling policies with an effective date of Oct. 1, 2018, the filing included a requested increase of almost 60% for extended coverage (wind) policies in Dare and Currituck Counties.
The requested increases will have significant impact on year-round rental and vacation rental properties, including those covered by the NCIUA.
As of today, the NC Insurance Commissioner has not responded to the Filing. Commissioner Causey can do nothing and the rates will go in to effect on October 1, 2018; he can negotiate a different rate than what has been requested; or he can deny the filing. If the Filing is denied, Commissioner Causey will schedule a date for a hearing on the filing.

Currituck to Hold Moyock Open House

Currituck County is inviting the public to attend a Moyock Open House on April 17th to discuss a variety of topics important to the Moyock community. The Open House will be held from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the gymnasium at Moyock Elementary School. Citizens may drop in during this time to meet with county government and school district personnel. Information stations will be set up to allow citizens an opportunity to easily discuss various topics with county staff.
Topics will include the following:
Currituck Station
Economic Development
Emergency Services
Moyock Park
Public Utilities
Schools
Storm Water Management
For more information, contact the Currituck Planning Department at 252-232-3055.

Dare County Water System Development Fees

During last year’s session of the North Carolina General Assembly, the Public Water and Sewer System Development Fee Act, S.L. 2017-138 was passed to clarify a local government utility’s authority to assess upfront charges for water and sewer. As part of the new law, local governments are required to contract with a financial professional or licensed professional engineer to perform an analysis regarding how to calculate the fee schedule.

Earlier this year, Dare County contracted with Raftelis Financial Consulting to complete an analysis to develop cost-justified water system development fees. Click here to view the full report.
Dare County is accepting written comments regarding the proposal through April 27, 2018. To submit your comments, complete the System Development Fee Study Comment Form. All submissions will be reviewed for consideration of possible modifications or revisions.

REMINDER: Economic Development Survey

The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce and Dare County are partners in Economic Development. The link below will take you to a 2018 Business Retention Survey. All those who complete the survey by April 30, 2018 and provide contact information will be entered into a drawing for several gift cards from area businesses.
The survey only takes about 10 minutes to complete: Click here to complete the survey now!
The Chamber and Dare County thank you for helping make the Outer Banks a great place to do business!

Town/County Updates

Currituck – As reported in an earlier Legislative Briefing, those wishing to park on Currituck County’s four-wheel drive beach this summer will need a county-issued beach parking permit displayed on their motor vehicle. This new permit system was adopted by the Board of Commissioners in an effort to increase safety in the four-wheel drive area, where large numbers of people and vehicles mix on a daily basis during the summer tourist season.
The permit system will be in effect from the Friday before Memorial Day until Labor Day. Key provisions in the policy include:
• All county residents and property owners may receive a free beach parking permit for each vehicle they own by providing proof of ownership and current liability insurance. The permits will be issued specific to each vehicle.
• County residents who live north of the North Beach Access Ramp may obtain two additional permits. These permits will not be specific to a motor vehicle and may be used by guests of the resident.
• Owners of a property located north of the North Beach Access Ramp that is in a rental program may receive two additional permits. These are not specific to motor vehicles and may be used by renters staying at the property.
• All others must pay a fee for a beach parking permit. These permits will be available for purchase from the Tourism Department on a temporary or seasonal basis. Fees will be $50 for a 10-day parking pass and $150 for a seasonal pass.
• The new permit system will not apply to county vehicles, emergency vehicles, any government agency conducting beach restoration, scientific research, or animal protection, commercial fishermen, outdoor tour operators when actively engaging in a tour, or hunters who are using state or federal land located within the Currituck Outer Banks.
An update as of March 28th: The County is preparing the permit application system and the beach parking permits. When everything is ready, applications may be completed online or mailed in to the county offices. Permits may either be mailed to citizens or picked up in person at the Tourism Department. For more information, you may contact the County Manager’s office at 252-232-2075.

Duck – Town Council meets on Wednesday, April 4th at 7 p.m. and will hold public hearings to consider the following:

• A Conditional Use Permit application to add eleven (11) new hotel \rooms, a new fitness center, and associated patio/decking, walkways, and parking improvements at the Sanderling Resort & Spa on properties located at 1461 and 1574 Duck Road.
• A Conditional Use Permit application to establish a Kayak/Stand Up Paddleboard Rental and Launching Facility in the Waterfront Shops Shopping Center at 1240 Duck Road.
Council will also be discussing an ordinance to amend Sections 70.01 and 70.04 of the Code of Ordinances to clarify and revise provisions regulating the operation of golf carts on public streets within the Town.

Southern Shores – The Planning Board will hold a Special Meeting on Monday, April 9th at 1 p.m. in the Pitts Center to continue discussion of the footnotes in Module One of the Town Code Update Project. Module One, in addition to other Town Code Update Project information, can be found on the Town website by clicking here. For additional information or questions, please contact Town Hall at (252) 261-2394 or email whaskett@southernshores-nc.gov.

Nags Head – Staff is requesting that a public hearing scheduled for this week’s meeting on a zoning ordinance text amendment dealing with paper street/unimproved rights of way and the increased required setback be removed from the agenda to allow more time to research and review.

Manteo – The Town of Manteo now offers direct notifications. Interested parties can sign up to receive text, email, or voice notifications for emergencies, special events, public utilities projects, and other public notices. Please click here to learn more or to sign up.

In the News

Overnight Closures of Bonner Bridge

Normal to Slightly Above Normal Hurricane Season Predicted

Ferry Division Adapts Schedule Due to Dredging Concerns on Hatteras Route

Manteo Mayor Says He Is Not Stepping Down Anytime Soon

Upcoming Meetings

Wednesday, April 4
9:00 a.m. – Nags Head Board of Commissioners
7:00 p.m. – Duck Town Council

Thursday, April 5
9:00 a.m. – OBAR Board of Directors Meeting
Noon – OBAR March Madness, Sea Ranch

Monday, April 9
1:00 p.m. – Southern Shores Planning Board, Pitts Center
5:30 p.m. – Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners
6:00 p.m. – Dare County Planning Board
6:00 p.m. – Kitty Hawk Town Council
7:00 p.m. – Dare County Waterways Commission

Tuesday, April 10
9:30 a.m. – Oregon Inlet Task Force
7:00 p.m. – Currituck Planning Board – CANCELLED

Wednesday, April 11
9:00 a.m. – OBAR Property Management Hot Topic
6:30 p.m. – Duck Planning Board

Advocacy, Legislative Briefing