Around the Region: New N.C. law blocks involuntary annexations

Published 7:56 pm Thursday, May 31, 2012

The N.C. General Assembly again has approved legislation to block involuntary annexations in the state.
Legislators adopted last year a bill that offered property owners a petition process for stopping proposed annexations. However, several cities sued the state and a judge overturned the petition authority earlier this year.
State legislators immediately began working on new bills against involuntary annexations. House bill H5, approved by a 66-50 margin this week, reverses recent annexations in nine cities, while House bill H925 gives residents of a proposed annexation area a chance to vote on the annexation.
Supporters of municipal annexations say the new laws effectively end a half-century of policy that permitted involuntary annexations, which allowed cities to absorb adjoining areas as they become more urban. Kelli Kukura of the N.C. League of Municipalities said last week that “if this harmful legislation becomes law, balanced growth will be gone.”
Bill H5, expected to reverse recent annexations effective July 1, is not subject to a veto from the governor. Bill H925 could face a governor’s veto, but it passed by veto-proof margins in both the House and Senate.
– source:, 5-30-12
North Carolinians think hospitals should not be allowed to place liens on patients’ homes to collect unpaid bills, according to a survey by N.C. Policy Watch. The survey was conducted by the watchdog group after an investigation by the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer found that hospitals in North Carolina filed more than 40,000 bill-collection lawsuits between 2006 and 2010. The hospitals won most of the suits, allowing them to place liens on patients’ homes.
The poll of 600 voters, done between May 11 and May 13, found that 77 percent opposed the practice of collecting unpaid bills through liens. Only 14 percent of those surveyed supported the use of liens.
Carolinas HealthCare System and Wilkes Regional Medical Center filed more than 24,000 of the lawsuits over the five-year period researched by the newspapers. Carolinas HealthCare says it provides care to anyone who needs it and files lawsuits only when people fail to answer repeated requests for payment. The health care company said it does not force patients from their homes, but collects after patients die or sell their houses.
The poll also found a majority of those surveyed believe hospitals should be required to state publicly their policies regarding charity care. Many of the hospitals’ policies for free and reduced care are not clearly stated, according to N.C. Policy Watch.
– source: Charlotte Observer, 5-15-12

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