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A Note From the League

Late last week and earlier this week we experienced technical difficulties in sending out the Sept. 13 edition of LINC'ed IN via email. We apologize to those of you who received a blank email from us. We have taken steps to ensure that similar problems are avoided in the future. Please note that last week's LINC'ed IN can be found on the League website here, as can all previous editions of LINC'ed IN at any time. Thank you for your continued readership.
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Transportation Reform Meetings Continue

Following last week's meeting of the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee, the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) workgroup devoted to the implementation of transportation reform legislation is scheduled to meet on Monday. As it has throughout the process, the League will be participating in this workgroup on behalf of all cities and towns. The workgroup is scheduled to address issues raised by legislators at the committee's Sept. 10 meeting, including the role of NCDOT division engineers in the "local input" portion of the reform legislation (see here from the Durham Herald-Sun). The Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee previously announced plans to meet again next Tuesday, Sept. 24, to consider the results of the workgroup's meeting. Questions regarding the transportation reform legislation and the implementation discussions can be directed to League Policy & Communication Specialist Chris Nida.
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Local Retirement System Among Best Funded in U.S.

A report this week from Morningstar, Inc., a leading provider of independent investment research, reaffirmed the financial strength of the N.C. Local Governmental Employees' Retirement System (LGERS). Aiming to offer a comprehensive view of the present state of major pension plans, Morningstar analyzed current data for pension plans administered by each of the 50 states. With a funding ratio of 99.8 percent, LGERS had the 8th-highest funding ratio of the 110 state-administered pension systems with assets of over $1 billion. While some public pension funds have been criticized for using overly optimistic assumptions of the rate of return on plan assets, North Carolina does not face this problem. The 7.25 percent rate of return used by LGERS is slightly below the median 20-year annual rate of return of 7.9 percent experienced by public pension plans.
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U.S. House Committee Sets Internet Sales Tax Principles

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee has released a statement of basic principles for any legislation it would adopt regarding the issue of Internet sales tax. To develop these principles, the Committee received input directly from taxpayers, industry and trade groups, and representatives of state and local governments. The principles seem to suggest that the Committee believes the provisions of the existing online sales tax bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act, are still too complex for businesses, and that changes need to be made. Lars Etzkorn, program director for federal advocacy at the National League of Cities, said the list of principles did not contain any "fatal flaws," and that they are all issues that have been raised and debated for many years. Etzkorn says he's optimistic the Committee will work to pass a bill, but the true test of its commitment is how soon a hearing on a bill is held. For more on the Judiciary Committee's principles, read here.


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Bills Eligible for 2014 Session Released

The N.C. General Assembly's Research Division this week released a memo detailing all of the bills eligible for consideration in the 2014 Short Session. That memo, which includes the full list of eligible bills, can be found here. Among the bills of most interest to cities and towns that the League worked extensively on in 2013 that will be eligible in 2014 are HB 150 Zoning/Design & Aesthetic Controls, HB 773 Local Gov'ts/Bldgs/Structures/Inspections, SB 105 Clarify Political Sign Ordinance Authority, and SB 287 Notice Publication - Guilford Co. Local Govs.
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League Releases Legislative Analysis Memos

This week the League published a series of memos providing additional detail on some of the changes of note that were made during the 2013 session of the General Assembly. Follow the links below to read those memos, and see here for past legislative analysis memos.


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Design-Build/P3 Networking Events Planned Across N.C.

Carolinas Associated General Contractors is sponsoring a series of six educational/networking events related to design-build/public-private partnership legislation passed during the 2013 General Assembly session. The League worked closely this session on HB 857 Public Contracts/Construction Methods/DB/P3, which authorized local governments to utilize design-build and public-private partnership construction contracts. These events will bring together the design and construction communities for a panel discussion/Q&A regarding the legislation, followed by a reception. Full details on the dates and times of these events, along with registration information, can be found here. As noted above, the League has also prepared a legal memo detailing the impact of this legislation on municipal governments.
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Benefits of LGC Oversight on Local Finances Highlighted

Moody's Investor Service has released the results of its comprehensive survey of the oversight, support powers, and track record of each U.S. state regarding financially distressed local governments. The survey found that North Carolina was one of only five states with strong state oversight of the financial affairs of general purpose local governments. The report highlighted the role of the Local Government Commission as a gatekeeper to the issuance of debt, its review of local annual financial statements, and its ability to assume control of local financial operations if default becomes imminent. Moody's noted, "Because of the state's active oversight, instances of financial distress in North Carolina are rare."
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MEC Local Government Regulation Study Group Report Finalized

The Local Government Regulation Study Group of the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission (MEC) recently finalized the report it will be submitting to the N.C. General Assembly by October 1. The report was produced with input from the League and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, among other stakeholders. Overall, the report recommended that local governments maintain their authority as appropriate, but should not be used exclusively to prohibit oil or gas operations within the local government's jurisdiction. A summary of the recommendations is available. The League will likely be working with MEC Commissioner Charles Taylor, a council member in the City of Sanford, to coordinate a meeting later this year to discuss the study group's recommendations. Information on that meeting will likely be available in the coming weeks.
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Municipal Elected Officials, Staff Not Subject to SEC Registration

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) held a hearing this week at which it voted to finalize its rule on the definition of "municipal advisors," narrowing the term to exclude municipal officials who act in their official capacity to provide investment advice for their municipality. The Dodd-Frank Act requires the SEC to adopt rules requiring municipal advisors to register with the SEC and comply with a set of regulations. These advisors previously were unregulated. The rules proposed by the SEC in 2010 would have defined the term "municipal advisor" broadly and would have required the registration of governing board members of municipalities and all people providing investment advice on all public funds. The final rule adopted this week would both exempt employees and appointed officials of municipalities from registration and narrow the application of the term "investment strategies" to apply only to the investment of proceeds from the sale of municipal securities rather than to all public funds.
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White House Invites Local Officials to Join Conference Call

Next Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 2:30 p.m., President Barack Obama and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are inviting state and local officials from across the country to join them for a conference call to discuss the October launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace. Interested local officials who would like to join the call can do so by RSVPing here with the Conference ID # 303712. More information on the Health Insurance Marketplace can also be found in this toolkit for state and local officials.