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Berger Opts Against Run for U.S. Senate

Following months of speculation regarding his future plans, State Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger announced Monday that he would not run for the U.S. Senate next year. In a statement, Sen. Berger said, "For me, the essential questions have always been: Where can my efforts have the most positive and lasting impact on the lives of everyday North Carolinians? Where can the most be done to increase economic opportunity, improve our public schools, and make North Carolina the best place in America to live, work and raise a family? Ultimately, the answer those questions remains: in the state Senate, where I'm honored to represent the people of Guilford and Rockingham Counties."

Berger's decision not to run against Senator Kay Hagan leaves Speaker of the House Thom Tillis as the most well-known candidate currently in the field. Recent speculation has centered on the possibility that state Sen. Pete Brunstetter would run for the seat if Berger did not. However, late last afternoon, Sen. Brunstetter officially announced he would not be entering the Senate race.

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FAA: Charlotte Airport to Stay Under City Control For Now

In a letter sent from the Federal Aviation Administration to the City of Charlotte yesterday, the FAA informed the city that it would not approve the transfer of control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport until legal questions surrounding the transfer have been resolved. The City has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of legislation that would transfer control of the airport from the city to the newly-created Charlotte Douglas International Airport Commission. Mayor Patsy Kinsey of Charlotte said in a statement, "The FAA's decision represents a major victory for our community in the City's fight to retain control of the airport Charlotte built and validates what community leaders, the CIty Council, and I have said about the General Assembly's legislation from the beginning -- it is significantly flawed." More on the FAA letter can also be found here in the Charlotte Business Journal.

Prior to receiving the FAA letter, the Charlotte City Council appointed four members to serve on the Charlotte Douglas International Airport Commission, as it was required to do by the legislation transferring control of the airport to the Commission. The City noted in its release announcing the appointments that "...the Council action does not signal that the City lends legitimacy to the legislation which took the airport away from City control, despite 78 years of successful management and growth." The Council's appointments to the Commission include former Charlotte city manager Pamela Syfert, attorney Anthony Fox, current Airport Advisory Committee member Pamela Bennett, and Robert Stolz, former Chairman of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Kinsey also has three appointments to the Commission that she has said she will make by Oct. 1. Both the Council and Mayor Kinsey also have one appointment each to the Commission's five-member Oversight Committee that they have yet to make.

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Meetings on Transportation Reform Implementation Continue

The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) workgroup on implementation of transportation reform legislation met again earlier this week to address concerns raised by legislators at this month's meeting of the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee (JLTOC). Among the concerns were how much say NCDOT division engineers should have in the "local input" portion of the project rankings, but the group seemed to reach general consensus that engineers' input should be reduced and more of a voice should be given to the MPOs/RPOs in each division. NCDOT Sec. Tony Tata, who attended Monday's meeting, made reference to this agreement in a Tuesday appearance in Durham. The workgroup is still discussing the inclusion of a criterion addressing accessibility/connectivity in the project ranking process, and what that criterion would look like if it were included. The workgroup will be meeting again on Monday, and the League will again be participating in the meeting. The next meeting of the JLTOC will be held a week from today, Friday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m.
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Ask U.S. Reps. for Marketplace Fairness Act Hearing

Last week the U.S. House Judiciary Committee released a statement of basic principles for Internet sales tax legislation it would consider. While the National League of Cities found no "fatal flaws" with the principles, word from the NLC this week is that House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte wants a new "simpler" bill, rather than have the committee take up the Marketplace Fairness Act legislation previously passed by the Senate. NLC and the League are asking municipal officials to contact their U.S. Representatives and request that they ask Chairman Goodlatte to hold a hearing on H.R. 684. The Marketplace Fairness Act allows states like North Carolina that have simplified their sales tax laws to collect the sales taxes from online retailers that they are currently owed but unable to collect.
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School of Government Releases E-Verify Guidance

Norma Houston of the UNC School of Government published an extensive FAQ document regarding the E-Verify law that became effective earlier this month. Under that law, all cities and towns are prohibited from entering into certain contracts if the contractor or that contractor's subcontractors are not compliant with the state's E-Verify law. All cities and towns should immediately revise their contracting procedures to comply with this new law. The FAQ explains the exact circumstances under which these new contracting provisions apply to cities and towns. These circumstances include formal and informal construction and purchase contracts, design services, leases, grants to nonprofits, and other service contracts. The document notes that unlike cities and towns, independent political subdivisions of the state -- such as water and sewer authorities or transit authorities -- are only subject to this new procedure when entering into formal construction or purchase contracts. Consult the FAQ for more description of the law and examples of legal documents already in use to comply with this new law.
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NCUC Issues Final Order in Duke Rate Case

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) issued their Final Order in the Duke Energy Carolinas Rate Case and granted a 4.5 percent rate increase. In addition to setting the new rate schedules, the Final Order contained rate and utility-management directives for Duke to pursue. League staff is currently reviewing the order to parse out the effect these changes will have on municipalities and will provide a more detailed update soon.

The League submitted a post-hearing brief in August to make final arguments and solidify positions litigated at the July Duke Energy Carolinas rate increase hearing before the NCUC. In that brief, the League focused on a request for lower rates, specifically for water and wastewater facilities and LED street lights. Read more about the arguments of the League's post-hearing brief in the September EcoLINC.

The League's intervention in this case is supported by the over 100 League members who belong to the NC Municipal Energy Group.

On Wednesday, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said he will appeal the 4.5 percent rate hike granted to Duke Energy Carolinas this week.

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Regulators Offer One More Bite at the Apple on Nutrient Plan

The state plans to solicit a third round of public input to its Nutrient Criteria Development Plan (NCDP), due November 8, according to state regulators presenting at a stakeholder meeting Wednesday. The plan, required as part of an agreement between the N.C. Division of Water Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, outlines a work plan for regulators to use in addressing nutrient impairments across the state. Similar work plans, negotiated for all states receiving EPA funding, contain a description of an agency's tasks, timelines, and milestones for development of "numeric nutrient criteria," or standards for nitrogen and phosphorus. Because those standards can lead to costly wastewater treatment plant upgrades and expanded local stormwater programs, League members chose the topic of nutrient regulation as their top regulatory priority. The League has participated in all previous NCDP efforts and will submit further comments on the plan. Read more background in this month's edition of EcoLINC.
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Deadline Today for League, NLC Positions

Those wishing to apply for a vacancy on the League's Board of Directors or for a position as a Chair or Vice Chair of a National League of Cities committee or council must submit their names by the end of the day today, Sept. 27. Details on the available officer and board positions at the League can be found here in the Annual Business Meeting Packet. Nominations can be submitted to the Nominating Committee Chair via email. Those wishing to serve as a Chair or Vice Chair of a 2014 NLC committee and council can find more information here. Applications for appointment as a standing committee or council member can be submitted until Nov. 22.
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Congratulations to Sarah Collins and Matt Meinig

Congratulations go out to former League interns Sarah Collins and Matt Meinig (pictured below), both of whom recently passed the North Carolina Bar Exam, were sworn into the North Carolina State Bar, and are now fully licensed attorneys. Both Sarah and Matt previously served as legal interns with the League's Governmental Affairs Team, and Sarah continues to work with us as a Legal Volunteer. Sarah and Matt have provided fantastic contributions to the League and its members through their work here, and we congratulate them on their successes. We wish both Sarah and Matt all the best in their future endeavors.