City council adopts legislative agenda

Speaker Tim Moore gavels the end of the North Carolina General Assembly's House of Representatives' afternoon session at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, Tuesday, May 30, 2017. The N.C. House of Representatives is working on finalizing their two year budget proposal this week and hope to bring it to a vote.

WINSTON-SALEM — The Winston-Salem city council unveiled at it Monday night meeting the city’s priorities for the legislative session which begins in Raleigh today.

The package of proposed legislation includes nine bills and two resolutions that affect the city

The first request is a so-called “local bill” which would allow the city to sell city-owned property for the purpose of increasing the supply of housing opportunities for lower income individuals. The bill language, which would only apply to the city of Winston-Salem, includes a provision that could allow property to revert to the city if it ceases to be used as affordable housing if it was conveyed under the bill’s authority. Local bills cannot be vetoed by the governor.

The next two bills on the city’s wishlist include a stricter ban on electronic machines and devices for sweepstakes and the limitation of the number of electronic machines which are not banned. The legislative package would allow law enforcement to “inspect any and all premises and electronic machines or devices for compliance with this section.”

Another local bill would allow the city of Winston-Salem to hold official meetings via electronic communications rather than in person. The bill includes a provision requiring the city to provide a location and means for the public to listen to the meeting. However, the bill does not include a requirement that the public be able to speak during the electronic meetings.

The next local bill proposal would establish primary elections to fill vacancies on the city council where the unexpired term of a vacating member is a year or more. Currently, a vacancy of 12 months or more triggers a special election where the executive committees of each political party selects a candidate to run. Under the proposed change, parties would not pick candidates and a primary would replace the old process. Another bill would create a petition process to allow citizens to request a special election for vacancies filled by the city council in 2018 or 2019.

The city is also asking the legislature to change the time for the next city election. Currently, the city of Winston-Salem is due for a municipal election in 2020. The proposal would extend the terms of the mayor and council members elected in 2016 by one year and move the city election to odd numbered years.

Another proposal would expand the agencies and groups to which local law enforcement may release body camera recordings. The city is asking for the state law to allow the release of police recordings to citizen review boards related to complaints against officers or to city managers or county managers for management and administrative purposes. The lengthy list of now release rules would require certain people to executed confidentiality agreements prior to viewing body camera footage.

On the tax front, the city is seeking authority to put a quarter percent sales tax on the ballot for a vote. The provision would limit the use of the additional sales tax revenue to beach nourishment, infrastructure construction and improvement, affordable housing, economic development street signage, or police, fire and rescue services.

The two resolutions ask for a legislative study committee to examine the need for backup generators at medical offices and for the legislature to authorize new options for the city raise revenue.

The legislative agenda also empowers the mayor and city council to work with the N.C. Metro Mayors Coalition and the N.C. League of Municipalities to advocate for the legislative agendas of those two groups which advocate for cities and towns.