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Rep. Julia Howard Honored With League's Community Champion Award

At the Annual Conference in Hickory earlier this week, the League presented Representative Julia Howard with its Community Champion Award. The League presents this award to legislators who go out of their way to work with municipal officials and the League to ensure that municipal interests are represented and respected in the legislative process. This year, the League's Executive Committee voted unanimously to present the award to Rep. Howard for her work during the 2013 session on numerous issues crucial to North Carolina's cities and towns.

Of these, none was more important than tax reform. Rep. Howard was instrumental in ensuring that the House did not accept a Senate proposal that would have eventually cost municipalities nearly $165 million annually. Instead, the final tax reform package actually provides increased revenues for cities and towns. Rep. Howard also worked for the extension of transitional hold harmless payments in the final state budget and to ensure that the impact of unemployment insurance reform on municipalities was spread over multiple fiscal years. Additionally, as Senior Chairman of the House Finance Committee, she adhered to committee rules that ensured that all matters received a fair and open hearing.

Now in her 13th term in the N.C. House of Representatives, Rep. Howard is a longtime champion of cities and towns. She is a former member of the Town of Mocksville Town Council, and current and former members of the Mocksville Town Council -- including Rep. Howard's daughter, Amy Vaughan-Jones -- were on hand to see Rep. Howard accept her award.

Howard told the crowd in attendance that her service in local government continued to play a role in the work she does today, saying, "This really touches my heart, because I never forget where I came from and I never forget who sent me here."

The League again extends its sincere thanks to Rep. Howard and looks forward to continuing to work with her in the future.

Mayor Ronnie Wall, Rep. Julia Howard, and Mayor Al King

 City of Burlington Mayor Ronnie Wall (left), the League's 1st Vice President, and City of Goldsboro Mayor Al King (right), League President, join Rep. Julia Howard (center) at the League's Annual Conference

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Thank You for Attending Annual Conference!

It was great to see so many of you in Hickory earlier this week for the League's Annual Conference. All of us on the League's Governmental Affairs team, along with the rest of the League staff, enjoyed the chance to catch up with each of you and hear about what is going on in your communities back home. We hope many of you had the opportunity to attend one of our concurrent sessions and hear about key legislative and policy issues from people such as N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Division of Water Resources Director Tom Reeder, City of Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas, City of Jacksonville city manager Richard Woodruff, and many more. Sec. Tata discussed elements of the state's transportation reform efforts and the Department's continued focus on customer service. Reeder explained the reorganization of the Division that he leads and told attendees that DENR has prioritized local economic development efforts to the fullest extent possible, and both he and Sec. Tata took questions from municipal officials.

We were also honored to hear from Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry, who addressed attendees at Monday's lunch, and to be joined by Representative Andy Wells, whose legislative district includes much of the City of Hickory. Our congratulations also go to the League officers officially installed at the Annual Conference: League President Al King, Mayor of the City of Goldsboro; League 1st Vice President Ronnie Wall, Mayor of the City of Burlington; and League 2nd Vice President Lestine Hutchens, Mayor of the Town of Elkin.

If you missed any of the concurrent sessions, check back on the League's Annual Conference web page early next week to view the presentations given. Thank you to the City of Hickory for hosting such a fantastic event, and thanks again to all of the attendees. We look forward to doing it again in 2014 in Greensboro.

NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata, Rep. Andy Wells, NCDOT Division 12 Engineer Mike Holder, and League staffer Chris Nida
From left, N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata, Rep. Andy Wells, NCDOT Division 12 Engineer Mike Holder, and League Policy & Communication Specialist Chris Nida talk at the League's Annual Conference in Hickory

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Local, National Officials Call for Delay of Changes to Flood Insurance Program

Local and statewide elected officials from across North Carolina and the rest of the country are calling on lawmakers to delay changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Legislation passed the U.S. Congress last year that included the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was designed to restore the fiscal soundness of the federal NFIP. Changes to the program as part of that act have led to premiums on all flood policies renewed after Oct. 1 rising by an average of 10 percent, according to this article from the Wilmington Star-News. Additional changes could lead to further increases in premiums, raising concern among homeowners and businesses alike. In response, groups from across the country are calling on members of Congress to delay implementation of Biggert-Waters until a more thorough study of its impact can be conducted. Numerous coastal municipalities in North Carolina have passed resolutions to that effect, and the Massachusetts Congressional delegation has sent a letter to the Majority and Minority leaders of both chambers of Congress asking for a delay of some immediate premium increases and the completion of an affordability study. More on the changes to the NFIP can be found here. If you have additional information on the impact of these changes on your community, or have any questions regarding changes to the NFIP, please contact League Policy & Communication Specialist Chris Nida.
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Rep. Samuelson Will Not Run for Re-Election

Rep. Ruth Samuelson, thought by many to be a leading contender to serve as the next Speaker of the House, announced this week that she would not run for re-election in 2014. According to the Charlotte Observer, in an email to her colleagues, Samuelson said, "There have been several private sector opportunities develop for me since the session adjourned that tap into some lifelong passions of mine. ... Coupled with a growing family and exciting opportunities with my church community, now is the time to set the stage for a great second half of my life." Rep. Samuelson served as a Mecklenburg County Commissioner prior to being elected to the House of Representatives, and this past session she served as the Republican Conference Leader. She also attended the League's Advocacy Goals Conference earlier this year and addressed attendees regarding the importance of building relationships with their legislators. Rep. Samuelson was a key backer of legislation this session to transfer control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport from the City of Charlotte. The League has enjoyed working with Rep. Samuelson over the years and wishes her all the best in her future endeavors.
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Employer Contribution Rate for Retirement System Could Decrease for FY14-15

The Local Government Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees heard this week that the financial condition of the retirement system could allow the FY14-15 employer contribution rates to be reduced 0.13 percentage points below the FY13-14 level. Favorable market returns on invested assets and lower than assumed payroll increases led to the improved financial condition. The Trustees will decide early in 2014 whether to use the improvement to reduce the employer contribution rate by the full 0.13 points, or to use some or all of the available funding to provide a cost of living adjustment to retiree benefits.
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Shutdown of Federal Government Comes to an End

The National League of Cities distributed information yesterday regarding the end of the federal government shutdown. Early Thursday morning, U.S. President Barack Obama signed legislation that funds the federal government through Jan. 15, 2014, at 2013 post-sequestration spending levels, and suspends the statutory debt limit through Feb. 7, 2014, unless Congress enacts a resolution of disapproval. U.S. House and Senate budget conferees now have until Dec. 13, 2013, to try to negotiate a longer term budget plan for fiscal year 2014 spending. NLC Executive Director Clarence Anthony, who addressed attendees at the League's Annual Conference earlier this week, said, "Cities are the economic engines of our country. We support Congress and the Administration getting its fiscal house in order but not on the backs of our communities. That means a balanced approach to managing the deficit. It also means preserving essential investments in American's hometowns and the municipal bond tax exemption."
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League Policy Committee Deadline Approaching

Municipal officials interested in serving on a League Legislative or Regulatory Action Committee have until Nov. 1 to submit forms indicating their interest. League policy committees are a great way to get involved in the League's policy-setting process and help determine what issues should appear on the League's biennial Municipal Advocacy Goals. Interest forms can be found here and can be returned via email to League Government Affairs Assistant Cara Bridges. Following the Nov. 1 deadline the League's president will review all of the interest forms and make committee appointments before the end of the year.