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LeagueLINC Spotlight: Sen. Trudy Wade

Throughout the interim between legislative sessions, the League will be periodically featuring leaders from around the state who play a significant role in municipal and legislative affairs. Our series kicks off this week with former Greensboro City Council Member and current Senator Trudy Wade.

Few sitting legislators in North Carolina can match Senator Trudy Wade’s record of local experience. From serving on a series of boards, to five years as a Guilford County Commissioner, followed by three terms on the Greensboro City Council, Sen. Wade has truly worked her way up through the ranks to her current position.

So when she is asked the difference between her service at the local level and her just-completed first session of the General Assembly, her response comes quickly and with a laugh.

“Nine months,” she said, referring to the length of the long session and the series of interim committees that soon followed.

Of course, one reason for the length of the session was the number and complexity of issues this General Assembly chose to take on in 2013. Sen. Wade cited tax reform, education reform and regulatory reform as three of the areas she was most proud of being able to work on this year.

And in each of those areas, she was able to draw on her local government experience.

“At first when I came here, you could tell a difference because I had a background on what happens at the state and local level,” Sen. Wade said. “You come in with some knowledge. Of course you still have to learn the process, learn about going to committee meetings, and learning how everything works, but you had a basic knowledge of what you’re affecting when you write legislation.”

Tax reform was perhaps the most significant legislative issue for municipalities this session, and the eventual positive outcome for municipalities came in large part due to municipal officials contacting their legislators and letting them know what the various reform proposals would mean to them. Sen. Wade was among those who heard from her local elected officials during that process.

“When we were doing tax reform and deciding about sales tax and what we were going to do at that point,” said Sen. Wade, “I had all my small towns and my cities calling me and telling me how it was going to impact them.”

Senator Trudy Wade

Many of those officials were able to do that because they had a relationship with Sen. Wade dating back to her local service in Guilford County. But she stressed the importance of all local officials building relationships with their legislators so they do feel comfortable reaching out to them when issues at the General Assembly arise.

“I think at your local level the best thing to do is try to build a relationship with your legislator, or other legislators for that matter, because certainly one person is not the majority of the body,” Sen. Wade said. “But it always helps to have that one-on-one where you can just talk and be open with what you think it will cost at home or what we need to do or how you can help the people back home.

“I think when your legislator is at home, you call them up and you say, ‘Let’s go to lunch. I’ve got some issues I want to talk to you about and get some feedback from you and see what you think you might could do and tell you how this is going to impact us and the city.’ ”

Sen. Wade played a key role in attempting to help municipalities this session by sponsoring a bill that would have allowed certain local governments to publish legally required public notices on their websites and through other means if they so choose. The bill, which eventually would have impacted Guilford and Mecklenburg counties and the municipalities therein, passed the Senate before running into opposition in the House and never receiving a final vote of approval.

Nevertheless, the bill remains alive for the 2014 General Assembly session, and not having it passed in 2013 was far from enough to dampen Sen. Wade’s enthusiasm about what the legislature has been able to accomplish in her time there thus far. She believes her experience at the local level served her well this year, and it could do the same for other local officials interested in moving to the General Assembly.

“It’s been probably one of the most rewarding times of my life being in the General Assembly at this time,” she said. “I think we’ve made some historic reforms, and I would just encourage anyone that wants to move (from the local) to the state level to do that. I think when you have a background at the local level and then you move up, you certainly understand the impact that will be on the local level when you pass laws and put bills forward. And there’s some issues that you know about having had that experience, and that’s why you’re able to have the knowledge to put a bill in on things they need at the local level.”

When not serving in elected office, Sen. Wade is a veterinarian, and she maintains the practice on Main Street in Jamestown that she has owned for 30 years. Whether it’s as Dr. Wade or Sen. Wade, she is deeply appreciative of the opportunity she has to serve her community.

"I'm very blessed that I've been able to do two things that I love, and serving people both ways," she said. "It's great being a veterinarian and it's great being in politics. I just don't know how to tell you -- it's a great experience. I'm very thankful for the people that let me do this."

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Thank You Karl Knapp

On behalf of the entire League staff, the NCLM Governmental Affairs team would like to extend a special thank you to Karl Knapp for his years of service to North Carolina's cities and towns. As many of you know, today is Karl's last day with the League, as he will be moving on to become the Budget Director for the Town of Cary. Karl has been a valued member of our team over the past years and has been a critical resource not only for his co-workers but for many city and town officials across the state. The wealth of experience he brings to the Town of Cary will serve both him and the Town well, and while we will miss him at the League, we wish him all the best in the future and look forward to continuing to work closely with him. Thank you, Karl!

Members of the League's Governmental Affairs team are pictured with Rep. Julia Howard and Rep. Andy Wells

Karl Knapp (second from left) is pictured here at the NCLM 2013 Annual Conference with other members of the League's Governmental Affairs Team, Rep. Julia Howard (center), and Rep. Andy Wells (second from right). Today is Karl's last day with the League before he becomes the Budget Director for the Town of Cary.

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Legislative Research Commission Studies Outlined

A letter sent this week from Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Thom Tillis details the studies that the Legislative Research Commission will be conducting in the months ahead. Among the studies of interest to municipalities are "Property Owner Protection and Rights" and "Public Enterprise System and Use of Funds." The Legislative Research Commission has the authority to recommend legislation for the 2014 session of the General Assembly based on the work of any its Study Committees. For all of the studies of the Legislative Research Commission, along with the committees that will be studying each issue, read the full letter here.
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Rural Center Funds Transferred to State

State Budget Director Art Pope told the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations Tuesday that $109 million in N.C. Rural Center funds would be transferred to the State, with the Department of Commerce retaining approximately $85 million in obligated funds and the remaining $24 million being transferred to the General Fund. According to WRAL, this will leave the Rural Center with approximately $7 million in assets on hand. A message on the N.C. Rural Center website said, in part, "A letter soon will be mailed to grantees outlining the specifics of this transfer. In addition to the grants, a number of Rural Center employees will move as well, becoming employees of the Department of Commerce. In the short term, grants that originated with the Rural Center will be managed by former Rural Center employees." The message also says that going forward the Rural Center "will shift away from grantmaking to focus on a number of initiatives that create opportunities for rural people and their communities." Questions regarding the Rural Center can be directed to Vice President for Finance and Administration Susan Dunn via email or at (919) 250-4314.
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Congressional Legislation to Delay Flood Insurance Increases Proposed

In recent weeks, local officials and media reports (including this week's article from the Wilmington Star-News) have begun calling attention to sharp increases in flood insurance rates resulting from the passage of the federal Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. This week, bipartisan legislation was filed in both the House and Senate to address those concerns. The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act would delay implementation of certain aspects of Biggert-Waters. Among the provisions of the legislation are delaying the implementation of rate increases for certain properties until the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) completes an affordability study, and the FEMA Administrator "certifies that the agency has implemented a flood mapping approach that utilizes sound scientific and engineering methodologies to determine varying levels of flood risk in all areas participating in the National Flood Insurance Program." N.C. Representatives G.K. Butterfield, Renee Ellmers, Walter Jones and Mike McIntyre have all signed on as co-sponsors of the House legislation. Said Rep. Jones, "While necessary, reforms to the (National Flood Insurance Program) should not be enacted in a way that causes homeowners in Eastern North Carolina and across the country to face sudden, exorbitant rate increases. This delay in implementation will allow time for adjustments to be made to ensure that the program remains financially sustainable and that flood insurance rates remain affordable." Rep. McIntyre said, "I was pleased to join my House and Senate colleagues in putting forth a bipartisan solution that will delay the steep Biggert-Waters flood insurance rate hikes, and provide sustainable path forward for the National Flood Insurance Program. This legislation offers much-needed relief to those who call our coasts home, both in Southeastern North Carolina and nationwide."
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Election Day Is Tuesday

This coming Tuesday, Nov. 5, a number of cities and towns across the state will be holding elections for municipal office. The League thanks all the candidates for their interest in serving the public in local government and wishes everyone the best in their races on Tuesday. Information on Tuesday's elections and where to vote can be found on the North Carolina State Board of Elections website.
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Deadline for League Policy Committees Is Today

If you haven't yet filled out an interest form for one of the League's policy committees, there are just hours left to do so. Today (Nov. 1) is the deadline for elected and appointed municipal officials to submit forms indicating their interest in serving on one of the League's Legislative or Regulatory Action Committees. The committees play an integral role in developing League policy on legislative and regulatory matters and providing feedback on issues to members of the League staff. If you are interested in serving on a committee, complete your form and submit it to League Governmental Affairs Assistant Cara Bridges today.