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U.S. House Passes Water Resources Development Act

On Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development bill with a bipartisan vote of 417-3. The bill was supported by the National League of Cities. Among its provisions were the initial authorization of 23 projects, environmental streamlining measures such as the delegating authority of environmental review to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, increased spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and the creating of a water infrastructure public-private partnership pilot program. NLC-supported amendments that were added to the bill included a multiagency effort to slow the spread of Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River basins and tributaries, direction of the Corps of Engineers to calculate the national benefits of proposed flood protection projects, and ensuring that the Corps of Engineers shall consult with local governments and local water districts as part of a study for flood and storm damage reduction related to natural disasters.

In a statement, NLC Executive Director Clarence Anthony praised the passage of the legislation, saying, "This bill will create jobs in our cities, improve the economy by restoring our harbors and ports that are essential to the movement of goods, and protect our environment through important ecosystem restoration projects. The bill recognizes local government leaders as key partners in efforts to restore the health of our waterways and build the critical infrastructure that supports and protects our communities."

Representative Mark Meadows, who represents North Carolina's 11th Congressional District, voted in favor of the bill and said in a statement, "Containing no earmarks, WRRDA puts us on a path to a more limited federal role in water infrastructure developments by laying the groundwork for increased private sector and state-level oversight. It also places strict limits on the amount of time and money the federal government can spend on feasibility studies that have held up vital projects for decades and cost taxpayers millions of dollars."

Representative Walter Jones of N.C.'s 3rd District was one of three no votes on the bill. He said, "The federal government has almost completely stopped paying for maintenance dredging of coastal inlets in North Carolina and across this nation. As a result, many of these waterways are shoaling badly, and the communities that depend on them are significantly impacted. This bill would worsen that problem."

The Water Resources Reform and Development bill now moves to a conference committee with the U.S. Senate.

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Hydraulic Fracturing Setback Rules Take Shape

Members of the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission (MEC) deliberated yesterday over the most substantive proposal for hydraulic fracturing setback rules considered by the Commission to date. The rule set, part of the larger regulatory scheme being formulated by the MEC to permit the industry's development in the state, contained specific setback distances between industry operations and various land uses. Those land uses included high occupancy dwellings such as hospitals and schools, occupied dwellings such as residences and churches, streams, public roads, and floodplains. The board's Environmental Standards Committee planned to incorporate changes suggested by commissioners and take a vote on the proposal at its November meeting. For more information on other MEC proposals of interest to local governments, please read this article in the October edition of EcoLINC, the League's monthly environmental newsletter.
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Graig Meyer Appointed to N.C. House

Graig Meyer, director of student equity and volunteer services for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, was appointed to the N.C. House of Representatives Thursday night, The Daily Tar Heel reported. The Orange and Durham County Democratic Parties voted to appoint Meyer to fill the seat left vacant when Sen. Valerie Foushee was named to her current position. "It takes a certain amount of ego to step up for political office," Meyer said in his acceptance speech, according to the Daily Tar Heel. "But I am more humbled than I have ever been before, and I look forward to fighting for my community and for the state of North Carolina." The League congratulates Representative Meyer on his appointment and looks forward to working with him in the future.
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New Laws Now In Effect

A number of laws passed by legislators during the 2013 session of the General Assembly have now taken effect. The League has prepared a variety of legal memos explaining the new requirements of municipalities as a result of these laws becoming effective. Those memos, along with past legal memos prepared by the League, can be found here.
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NCDOT Advisory Group Examines N.C. Transportation Network

The N.C. Department of Transportation has convened an advisory group -- on which the League is serving -- to assist in the development of the North Carolina Transportation Network, formerly known as the N.C. Multimodal Investment Network. The N.C. Transportation Network will serve as a blueprint for planning organizations to use as they make decisions about their community's future. It will also serve to complement the Strategic Transportation Investments created by transportation reform legislation during this legislative session and provide input to NCDOT's forthcoming 25-Year Transportation Infrastructure Plan. MPO and RPO representatives should have already received notification of this project. If you have any questions or any input you wish to provide to the advisory group, please contact League Policy & Communication Specialist Chris Nida.
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Crisco May Challenge Rep. Ellmers

Keith Crisco, the former Secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce and chief executive of Asheboro Elastics Corp., told WRAL this week that he is considering running for Congress in North Carolina's Second District. That seat is currently held by Rep. Renee Ellmers. Crisco, who also serves as the Chair of the N.C. Communities & Business Alliance, told WRAL, "It's a consideration. It's early and we've got a lot of work to do ... My style was to work across the aisle, and I've been supported by Republicans, Democrats and independents." WRAL also reported that Durham attorney Houston Barnes has already filed paperwork to run against Rep. Ellmers in the Nov. 2014 election.
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One Week Remaining to Submit NCLM Committee Interest Forms

We are now one week from the Nov. 1 deadline to submit interest forms to serve on a League policy committee. The League's Legislative and Regulatory Action Committees are made up of both elected and appointed municipal officials and drive the League's policy-setting process, which will culminate at the next Advocacy Goals Conference prior to the 2015 legislative session. Those wishing to serve on a committee can complete and submit the interest form or contact League Government Affairs Assistant Cara Bridges.