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Christensen to Join League's Governmental Affairs Team

The League's Governmental Affairs team is pleased to announce that Whitney Christensen will be joining the team as the League's Government Affairs Associate. Whitney's first day with the League will be Dec. 16. Previously, Whitney served as staff attorney and government affairs manager for the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association. She is a North Carolina native who completed her undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received her law degree from the South Texas College of Law in 2011. Paul Meyer, the League's current director of governmental affairs and the organization's next executive director effective Feb. 1, said, "We are thrilled to have Whitney join our team here at the League. Her experience lobbying at the General Assembly and working in a membership association makes her a natural fit for our team. We are excited for her to start with us and confident that she will serve the League's member cities and towns well."

Whitney Christensen

Whitney Christensen will begin as the League's Government Affairs Associate on Dec. 16.

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Local Officials Take Oaths of Office

Across the state this week, newly-elected and returning local officials took the oaths of office for the cities and towns that they serve. Among the cities welcoming new mayors were Charlotte, Fayetteville, and Greensboro, while returning mayors and council members were sworn in in such communities as Durham, Raleigh, Salisbury, and Wilmington. The League thanks all the outgoing elected officials for their years of service, and we look forward to working with the new and veteran mayors, council members, aldermen, and commissioners across the state. If the League's Governmental Affairs team can ever be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact any of us.
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Cary Mayor Pro Tem Among Those Running for General Assembly

Candidates continue to announce their campaigns for seats in the N.C. legislature in 2014. This week, Town of Cary Mayor Pro Tem Gale Adcock made public her intention to run for the N.C. House in District 41, a seat which is currently held by Rep. Tom Murry. Mayor Pro Tem Adcock has been on the Town Council since 2007 and has served as Mayor Pro Tem since 2011. Nearby in Wake County, Kim Hanchette has said that she will run for the N.C. House District 49 seat currently held by Dr. Jim Fulghum, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. In Greensboro, former Guilford County Board of Commissioners chairman Melvin "Skip" Alston announced that he would run against current Senator Gladys Robinson in District 28. Both Alston and Robinson are Democrats. In House District 3, which covers Beaufort, Craven, and Pamlico counties, attorney Whit Whitley announced his plans to challenge Rep. Michael Speciale, according to WRAL. And in House District 46, which includes Columbus County and portions of Bladen and Robeson counties, Brenden Jones announced that he would run for the House seat currently held by Rep. Ken Waddell.
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Poll Reveals North Carolinians' Feelings on Local Government, Public Records

Results of the Elon University Poll released this week show that North Carolina residents have more trust in their local governments than in state or federal governments, and a majority of residents feel as if certain information should and should not be available to the public. When asked how much they trust governments to do what is right, nearly 49 percent of respondents said they trust local government "most of the time" or "just about always," as compared to 26.5 percent for state government and 14 percent for the federal government. Said Assistant Professor Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll, "The greater trust in local governments is likely a product of two factors. Residents are more likely to have contact with local officials, and there is far more media attention on the failings of state and federal governments."

Respondents were also queried as to their opinions regarding public records in North Carolina. Among the findings are that while 60 percent said it was important to get any document they want from the government, 64 percent agreed that government officials are sometimes justified in keeping information a secret. A majority of respondents said that information such as government officials' expense accounts, criminal records, and public employee salaries should be made public, while a majority said that such records as voting records, public utility records, and government employees work email messages should not be made public. Public records legislation is an ongoing source of discussion at the General Assembly, and could come up again in 2014 based on recent media coverage of Gov. Pat McCrory's office's handling of public record requests.

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NLC Joins Those Calling for Flood Insurance Changes

At the National League of Cities' recent Congress of Cities, members approved a resolution calling on Congress to pass the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013. That legislation would delay implementation of portions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which was passed to ensure the solvency of the National Flood Insurance Program but is leading to significant flood insurance rate hikes for many property owners. Concern over the impact of Biggert-Waters has been expressed by state and local officials in N.C. and around the country. According to NLC, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate testified during a House subcommittee meeting this week that he "cannot delay parts of" Biggert-Waters without Congressional action. Passing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act may prove challenging, though, due to the bill's fiscal impact and it being late in the legislative calendar for this Congress. The League, along with the North Carolina Home Builders Association and the North Carolina Association of REALTORS, will be sending a joint letter to the state's Congressional delegation urging them to support the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act.

Also at the Congress of Cities, more than 1,000 NLC voting delegates approved changes to the NLC National Policy, which will guide the organization's federal advocacy in 2014. The approved changes can be found here.

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Municipal Tree-Trimming Ordinances Singled Out in Legislative Committee

Sen. Andrew Brock singled out municipal tree-trimming ordinances during a legislative committee discussion Tuesday about issues before the NC Utilities Commission (NCUC). Referring to a dispute involving Greensboro and Duke Energy Carolinas that is currently being litigated at the NCUC, Brock asked questions of the presenter regarding how many cities and towns have enacted such ordinances. Last session, Brock was a primary sponsor of the bill that sought to limit the authority of local governments to pass regulations such as tree-trimming ordinances. The League worked to reduce the scope of that provision, and Brock and Rep. Chuck McGrady are currently studying the issue as part of the work of the Environmental Review Commission.
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Hydraulic Fracturing Waste Disposal Rule Advances

The regulatory committee tasked with writing regulations regarding the disposal of hydraulic fracturing wastes unanimously approved the rule yesterday. Now, the rule advances to a technical committee, its last stop before a full vote by the NC Mining & Energy Commission (MEC). Before taking a vote, committee members added "onsite pretreatment" as another waste disposal option. Other disposal options contained in the rule included: reuse in other hydraulic fracturing operations, transfer to a centralized wastewater treatment plant, and transportation to another state. Therefore, the rule disallowed disposal via deep-well injection into aquifers, a practice that would pose large concerns for many municipalities drawing from aquifers for their water supplies. In addition, the rule also contained language requiring notification of local emergency officials and owners of surface water supplies in the event of a spill from waste ponds and pits. 
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Study: Loss of Film Incentive Will Cost Millions

According to the Wilmington Star-News, preliminary results of a study commissioned by the Wilmington Regional Film Commission indicate that the expiration of the film incentive would cost New Hanover County alone at least $10 million in tax revenue. The refundable tax credit for qualifying productions is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2014, but supporters of the film industry and its economic impact in the state have been making the case to extend the incentive. At the Advocacy Goals Conference in January of this year, League members chose the removal of the film credit's sunset date as one of their Municipal Advocacy Goals for the 2013-14 biennium. This week, N.C. Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker was also in Wilmington and told reporters, "We want the film industry to grow in the state and we're committed to figuring out how best to facilitate that," according to the Port City Daily.
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Goldsboro City Manager Appointed to State Board

Governor Pat McCrory recently announced the appointment of City of Goldsboro manager Scott Stevens to the North Carolina Water Treatment Facility Operators Certification Board. Stevens will serve a three-year term on the board, filling the role of municipal manager using a surface water supply. The Water Treatment Facility Operators Certification Board protects public health, conserves and protects the water resources of the state, and protects the public investment in water treatment facilities, among other duties. Stevens previously served as the city manager in Kinston and told the Kinston Free Press, "From my understanding, the board is really trying to administer (the facility operators certification) and make sure that the rules we're creating are reasonable. Because there's always a cost to that certification, so you want to balance having to require people to get training and certification, with the cost and also with the public safety side of having clean water and clean wastewater."
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Registration Open for Essentials of Municipal Government

You can register now for the Essentials of Municipal Government, a joint program sponsored by the League and the UNC School of Government. The two-day program is open to both newly-elected and veteran municipal officials and covers such topics as governing board roles and responsibilities, State-mandated ethics training, and financing municipal government. Seats are still open for sessions in New Bern, Chapel Hill, Hickory, and Wilmington in January and February of next year. Register here for your preferred option.