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Privilege License Reform Remains At Front of Many Minds

The Revenue Laws Study Committee of the General Assembly that is studying the municipal privilege license will not meet again until Wednesday, April 9, but that does not mean that discussions on the issue have ceased. League staff and city officials have had numerous conversations in recent weeks with legislators and other interested parties regarding the proposed reform. Media around the state have begun to take notice as well, in the form of both press coverage and editorials. Recent articles have focused on the impact of the proposed reform in Burlington and Wilmington, and editorials discussing the privilege license and local control have appeared in the Charlotte Observer, Greensboro News & Record, Wilmington Star-News, and Burlington Times-News. The Times-News also ran a piece on the privilege license written by Andy Ellen of the N.C. Retail Merchants Association, one of the primary backers of the reform effort. The League will continue its work on this issue on behalf of all of North Carolina's cities and towns in the weeks and months ahead. If you have any questions regarding privilege license reform, please contact League Director of Research & Policy Analysis Chris Nida.
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League Releases FY14-15 Revenue Projections

The League has released its annual memo detailing revenue projections for the coming fiscal year. Projections for all of the major state-collected municipal revenues -- such as sales taxes, Powell Bill, electricity and natural gas taxes, and more -- are included. The revenue projections, sales tax calculator file, and the League's Basis of Distribution memo can all be found on the League's website. Questions regarding any of the documents should be directed to League Director of Research & Policy Analysis Chris Nida.
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For Failing Residential Infrastructure, Legislators Ask, 'Who Pays?'

Members of the House Committee on Land Development debated yesterday whether the N.C. General Assembly should legislate responsibility for failing or incomplete infrastructure in residential developments. Specifically, committee members asked whether property owners or the local governments that issued development approvals such as certificates of occupancy should bear responsibility for common infrastructure elements such as roads, culverts, curb and gutter, or retaining walls.

Committee Co-Chair Rep. Mark Brody and committee member Rep. Andy Wells pressed the committee to recommend legislation for the upcoming Short Session that would assign this responsibility to the local government unit that inspected and authorized these developments. In conjunction with that assignment of responsibility, Wells said, local governments should have the authority to hold other entities responsible for maintenance of and repairs to those infrastructure elements. He acknowledged that such a proposal would likely lead to an increased use of bonds, a move opposed by development interests. Many local governments already require such bonds for various built components in developments, including shared infrastructure like retaining walls, culverts, and streets.

The idea for this study topic grew out of troubles with a development in Lowell, N.C. (read more background here). In yesterday's meeting, legislators acknowledged that the Lowell situation was unique and unlikely to happen elsewhere in the state. Some committee members, including Reps. Pat McElraft and Chuck McGrady, questioned the need for any legislation at all. The committee will meet again next month to debate whether to make any final recommendations for legislation.

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League Board Approves Amendments to Advocacy Goals

The North Carolina League of Municipalities Board of Directors convened in Raleigh on Wednesday for its first regularly scheduled meeting of 2014. With League President and Goldsboro Mayor Al King presiding, the Board heard reports from several League department heads as well as Executive Director Paul Meyer. The Board also approved changes to the League's Municipal Advocacy Goals for the 2014 Short Session upon recommendations from the League's policy committees, including the removal of several goals that were achieved during the 2013 Long Session. The updated Municipal Advocacy Goals for 2014 can be found on the League's website here.
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Group Deciding Stormwater Control Practices Begins Work

The Minimum Design Criteria Team, a workgroup that will develop the minimum "criteria," or standards, for stormwater control devices, met Monday for the first time. Such statewide standards guide private consultants when designing stormwater controls, and they also assist the state and local government professionals reviewing those design plans. This stakeholder group was a result of S.L. 2013-82 Fast Track Permitting, which mandated the creation of minimum design criteria (MDC) for certain stormwater devices in an effort to speed up development plan approvals.

The stakeholder team included four League members, industry experts, engineers, environmental consultants, and university faculty (listed in this workgroup charter). The team's purpose was to provide the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) advice in developing MDCs that encompassed all requirements for siting, design, construction and maintenance of stormwater best management practices. At this week's meeting, the team approved the workgroup's charter, discussed the process for reviewing the thirteen commonly-used stormwater controls listed in the state's Best Management Practices (BMP) Manual, and discussed the timeline for creating MDCs and developing a fast-track permitting process for issuing state stormwater permits. The law required that DENR submit its recommendations regarding the MDCs to the legislative Environmental Review Commission by September 1, 2014. However, Tracy Davis, Director of the Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources (DEMLR) stated that DENR would request an extension of time so that only a report would be required on September 1, 2014, and the final MDCs would be submitted in September 2015. Read more background on the formation of the MDC team and fast-track permitting. The MDC Team will meet next April 28.

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League Serves Data Request on Duke Energy Carolinas

Last Friday, the League served a data request on Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC) regarding details of its lighting rates. The Public Staff of the NC Utilities Commission (NCUC) also submitted a data request of DEC concerning details of their lighting rates and existing street lighting fixtures. DEC's responses to these two data requests will allow for more insights into the calculations and assumptions in the company's rate structures. The League's data request related to comments Duke Energy Carolina submitted to the NCUC earlier this month and was a continuation of the League's intervention in last fall's Duke Energy Carolinas rate case. In that intervention, the League pressed the company for an LED streetlight rate for cities and towns in the Duke Energy Carolinas service area that would make it financially feasible for them to swap out old streetlight technologies for more energy-efficient technologies such as LED. The League's continued involvement in this issue is supported by the 100-plus members of the Municipal Energy Group.

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Census Estimates Show Growth in Metropolitan Areas

Population estimates for 2013 released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week show that much of North Carolina's growth last year took place in and around the state's largest cities. In all, the Census Bureau estimates that North Carolina's population grew by nearly 100,000 (99,696) people, with more than 45,000 people being added in Mecklenburg and Wake counties alone. Together, the Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) of Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia and Raleigh gained more than 66,000 people in 2013. Six MSAs -- Raleigh, Wilmington, Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, Durham-Chapel Hill, Asheville, and Fayetteville -- had growth rates higher than the national average of 0.85 percent, topped by Raleigh's 2.2 percent growth. Additionally, the Micropolitan Statistical Area of Dunn had the largest population increase in the nation among Micropolitan Areas. More on the latest population estimates can be found in the Winston-Salem Journal.