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Governor McCrory Signs Two Bills Crucial for Municipalities

Governor Pat McCrory has signed into law two more bills important to cities and towns across the state. On Thursday, the governor signed HB 369 Criminal Law Changes and SB 734 Regulatory Reform Act of 2014. The League's Governmental Affairs team worked diligently with legislators to achieve outcomes favorable to municipalities on both bills. 

HB 369 changes an onerous requirement that forced local governments to check vendors' E-Verify compliance for all purchases and contracts regardless of size. Under the change, the requirement applies only to purchases and contracts within the formal bidding range. (Read previous League coverage here.) SB 734 includes several provisions affecting municipalities, including the repeal of a de facto moratorium on local environmental ordinances. (Read previous League coverage here.)

The governor had previously indicated that he planned to allow a coal ash clean-up bill to become law without his signature. The governor had until midnight Thursday to either sign, veto or allow to become law without his signature the remaining bills before him.

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Governor Declines to Call Special Session

Governor Pat McCrory decided late last week not to call the General Assembly back to Raleigh for a special session to address economic development-related issues. Governor McCrory announced his decision by saying that it would prove "a waste of taxpayer money" without an agreement in place to approve legislation. The governor did say that he could still call lawmakers back if a major business recruitment required special legislation.

Governor McCrory's announcement followed requests by the League and other groups for a special session. League Executive Director Paul Meyer wrote a letter to the Governor earlier this month asking that he call legislators back to Raleigh to address crucial funding for economic development programs, and the extension of film and historic preservation tax credits. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo had previously called for a special session, and a group of Charlotte-area officials, including Mayor Dan Clodfelter, sent a request to the governor on the same day that the League's letter was delivered. 

The League's letter pointed out that allowing economic development recruiting programs to run out of money could do irreparable harm to cities and towns across the state, and that residents expect bold action when it comes to job creation. Meyer reiterated those points to WRAL-TV in Raleigh as the station reported on Governor McCrory's announcement. Previous League coverage can be read here. Read more media coverage of the governor's announcement here.

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Governor McCrory Unveils Transportation Plan

Governor Pat McCrory has unveiled a long-term transportation plan and wants legislators to agree to a $1 billion bond to put funding toward more transportation projects. The governor on Wednesday traveled to four cities -- Wilmington, Greenville, Winston-Salem and Asheville -- to announce the plan. It calls for investments in highways, rail, ports and mass transit, dividing the state into four regions. A separate list of proposed bond projects released by state Department of Transportation includes funding for urban loops for Fayetteville and Winston-Salem, and rural highway improvements around the state.

Governor McCrory said he wants to improve jobs opportunities and economic development in rural areas of the state by better connecting those areas with metropolitan jobs centers. Read more coverage of the transportation plan here and here.

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State Revenue $50 Million Short of Projections Early in Fiscal Year

Two months into the fiscal year, a state report shows state tax revenues trailing projections by $50 million. But Lee Roberts, the state's new budget director, said it is far too early in the fiscal year to draw any conclusions about how the revenue picture will look later in the year. Besides the projections, Lee also told the N.C. Insider that comparing last year's revenues to this year's doesn't mean much because of both state and federal tax law changes. Read media coverage regarding the state's revenue picture here.   
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S&P Report: North Carolina Sees Slower Revenue Growth

A report from Standard & Poors shows state tax revenue in North Carolina from 2009 to 2011 growing at a slower pace than a similar group of peer states also heavily dependent on income taxes. The report found North Carolina to be among the 10 states most heavily dependent on incomes taxes. It also showed the state's annual tax revenues in the 2000s growing at about half the rate they had in the 1990s.

The S&P analysis looked at revenue growth for all states. It concluded that income inequality and the relatively slow pace of income growth for the middle-class and working poor in recent years is putting increasing pressure on state budgets. Read media coverage about the report here and here.

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State, Environmentalists Seek Compromise on Bonner Bridge

A environmental group that has fought against a simple replacement for the Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks has apparently been in talks with state transportation officials about breaking an impasse over the project. A joint statement from the Southern Environmental Law Center and the State Department of Transportation says the two sides are trying to move forward after a recent ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The aging bridge, which connects southern Outer Banks communities to the north and the mainland, has undergone numerous repairs and been closed from time to time. Read media coverage here.  
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Fayetteville's Push for More Public Utility Oversight

Over the last year, the City of Fayetteville has been the latest municipality caught up in questions regarding control of its public utility, the Public Works Commission. Similar battles in other cities have spilled over into legislative fights in recent years, often with those living outside the affected areas failing to have a strong grasp of the issues involved. The legislative outcomes have not always been good for cities. Tim White, the editorial page editor at the Fayetteville Observer, recently provided an excellent overview of the issues facing Fayetteville and that city's control of its public utility.

Among other things, White points out, "The PWC section of the city charter reveals that the city is empowered -- or perhaps more accurately, required --  to maintain oversight of the PWC." He concludes that real oversight is only possible through a recent City Council-approved plan to create budgeting and auditing staffs. Read White's full column here. This blog post from the UNC School of Government also provides a review of state statutes governing transfers between municipal enterprise and general funds.

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State Agencies Seek Comments on Local Ordinances

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are seeking input from the public in response to a provision contained in SB 734 Regulatory Reform Act of 2014. The legislation calls for the two departments to report back to legislators regarding local ordinances and their effects on regulation by the departments. Comments may be submitted online here or emailed here.