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General Assembly Sends Budget to the Governor

The General Assembly approved a State budget for FY 12-13 this week and sent it to the Governor for signature.  The only budget provision that affects municipal revenues is the one-year cap on the gas tax rate, which will reduce FY 13-14 Powell Bill funding by less than one percent.  The budget did cut two programs that provide infrastructure funding for cities and towns.  The Rural Center's infrastructure program was cut from $16.5 million to $13.5 million, reducing funding for local water and economic development projects.  The Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which was cut from $50 million to $11.5 million last year, was reduced by another $1.5 million.  Funding also was changed from recurring to non-recurring, making it less likely that any funding will be available next year.  The Governor has not yet indicated whether she will sign or veto the budget and it is not clear whether a veto could be overridden.

Contact: Karl Knapp, 919.715.9768


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Contingency Contracts Bill Moving--Please Oppose!

HB 462 Contingency Contracts for Audits/Assessments (McCormick) passed the Senate this week and is expected to be up for consideration in House Commerce committee early next week.  The bill eliminates the ability of cities, counties and the state to hire tax auditing firms on a contingency basis, saving taxpayers money by only paying the firms if they find that those owing taxes have not paid.  This is a basic fairness and efficiency issue.  The ability of a city or town to collect taxes owed, in order to keep taxes low for diligent taxpayers, is important. Collecting these taxes owed on a contingency basis saves all taxpayers from spending money unnecessarily.  Without contingent fee contracts, large amounts of taxes will remain uncollected, increasing taxes for others. The League GA team and a larger coalition are working hard to stop this bad bill but we must have your help.    

ACTION ALERT:  Please call and email your delegation AND Members of the House Commerce committee NOW to tell them why you use this tool. 

Contact: Kelli Kukura, 919.889.9040


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Surprise Bill Hurts Kinston and Sets Bad Precedent

Rep. Stephen LaRoque, who lost his re-election bid and will not be returning to the General Assembly, stripped SB 472 and dropped in a proposed committee substitute (PCS) by surprise Thursday in House Government.  The bill is very damaging to Kinston and sets a horrible state-wide precedent.  The legislation requires that water rates for non-city residents be the same as those for taxpaying residents in Kinston.  Unfortunately, the bill passed House Government committee and is now scheduled for 2nd and 3rd reading on the floor for Monday, after which it would only require concurrence in the Senate.  The League GA team is working to stop this bill and would like to thank the other legislators who have quickly recognized what bad policy it is, coming to the aid of Kinston and other cities. 

Contact: Kelli Kukura, 919.889.9040
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Town of Boone Attacked; Bills Set Bad Precedents for All Towns

Two bills target the future economic vitality of the Town of Boone.  SB 949 Town of Boone/ETJ (Soucek) -- which would strip the existing ETJ from the Town of Boone -- and HB 1227 Disapprove New River Basin Rule (Jordan) -- which would halt Boone's new water project -- both have statewide implications and are opposed by the League.  The water bill appears stopped for now, but the ETJ bill has passed the Senate and sits in the House Rules Committee. These bills are obviously very bad for Boone, its economic development and its tourism, and they also set very bad precedents for all other NC cities and towns.

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930
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Broad Anti-ETJ Legislation Contained?

HB 1043 ETJ Restrictions (LaRoque, Moffitt) could still be brought forward at any time.  However, the chances of passage of this bill have become slim, given the goal of adjournment within the next ten days.  The legislation could pop up unexpectedly in another bill, so please continue to talk with your legislators about the need for ETJ.  The bill prohibits new extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) in any county with county-wide zoning.  ETJs in areas without county zoning but with county subdivision regulations would require approval of the county commission.  Click here for message points to share with your legislators. 

 Contact:  Kelli Kukura, 919.889.9040


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Tax on Sweepstakes Cafes Discussed

HB 1180 Video Sweepstakes Entertainment Tax (Owens) was heard Thursday in House Finance committee but was not acted upon.  Currently the bill places a tax on sweepstakes cafes and machines.  The state would receive $2,000 per operation and $1,000 per machine, while counties and cities/towns would each receive $1,000 per store and $500 per machine.  The League GA team is involved in discussions on the bill and the particular taxes to be imposed, in the event the General Assembly should decide to take this approach to sweepstakes cafes. 

Contact: Kelli Kukura, 919.889.9040
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Some Improvement in 911 Operations

Significantly amended, SB 94 PSAPs Tech Standards/Habitual Misd. Larceny provides some relief from excessive regulations being imposed by the 911 Board on 911 centers across the state.  In its current form, the bill delays the implementation of overly burdensome operational standards being developed by the oversight board until January 1, 2014.  The bill has passed the House and now returns to the Senate for a concurrence vote.  Please thank Rep. Faircloth for his efforts to pass this proposed legislation. 

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930
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Billboard Bill to Restore Local Control Passes Committee

SB 428 Selective Vegetation Amendments/W&S Study was approved by the House Environment Committee today.  Reps. Carney, Samuelson, and McGrady led the charge, supporting this proposal which returns some control over billboard vegetation removal decisions to city officials. The bill is supported by the League, and we expect to see additional action on this bill next week. 

ACTION ALERT:  Please call these representatives and thank them for their efforts!  Talk with your legislators about why your local citizens want some say over billboards in their communities.

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930


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Transportation Budget Summary

The compromise budget passed this week caps the gas tax at 37.5 cents for one year, reducing the revenues available in the transportation budget.  As a result, Powell Bill funds will be reduced by less than one percent for the FY13-14 distributions.  The budget transfers unneeded FY2012-13 gap funds appropriated to the Garden Parkway in Gaston and Mid-Currituck Bridge projects to the Mobility Fund.  The NCDOT will begin collecting ferry tolls on all ferries except for the Ocracoke/Hatteras Ferry and the Knotts Island Ferry.  The Cherry Branch/Minnesott Beach route will receive a one year reprieve as well.   While the budget does fund Charlotte's Blue Line Extension light rail project, it ends the Regional New Start and Capital grant program after that project.  Public Transportation also saw an additional 3 percent cut to its budget, bringing the total cut to 9 percent.  

Contact: Julie White, 919.675.1393


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Changes Pave Way for Asheville Water System Forced Merger

Continuing a discussion regarding the separate Asheville water system and Buncombe Metropolitan Sewerage District (MSD) wastewater system begun last session, the N.C. House passed HB 1009 MSD Amendments (McGrady) Monday. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The bill accomplishes two significant changes to the MSD statutes: 1. Grants any MSD the same powers and authorities as a Metropolitan Water District; and 2. Rewrites the board composition for an MSD. These amendments would pave the way for possible 2013 legislation that would mandate the merger of Asheville's city-owned water utility with Buncombe MSD, a regional wastewater utility. Read more details here, including the letter sent by the League to legislative leaders in opposition to a forced merger.

Contact: Erin Wynia, 919.715.4126.


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Dozens of Environment Provisions Advance in "Super Bills"

Two "super bills," each loaded with dozens of changes to environmental and other laws, have advanced close to passage in both legislative chambers. The first, SB 229 Amend Environmental Laws 2012 (East), includes a change to the law governing the permitting of Type I yard waste compost facilities and is currently under consideration by a conference committee (details in last week's LINC Bulletin). The second, SB 810 Regulatory Reform Act of 2012 (Rouzer), has passed both chambers but must return to the Senate for a final vote due to amendments added by the House. An overview of the provisions affecting local governments is available in this week's edition of EcoLINC, the League's monthly environmental electronic newsletter (environmental amends, regulatory reform).

Contact: Erin Wynia, 919.715.4126.


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Governor to Receive Bill Legalizing Natural Gas Extraction

With a final vote in the Senate yesterday, SB 820 Clean Energy and Economic Security Act (Rucho) has been sent to Governor Perdue. The bill in its final form differs only slightly from the description provided in last week's LINC Bulletin, and the changes do not affect local governments.

Read an account of the final vote and speculation regarding Perdue's possible veto in this report by WRAL.

Contact: Erin Wynia, 919.715.4126


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Bill to Increase Condemnation Costs Sits

HB 960 Protect Homeowners with Underwater Mortgages (Moffitt, Brawley, R. Moore) remained in the Senate Commerce Committee this week.  This bill increases the cost of expanding public infrastructure by abandoning the time-tested legal principle that the government pay fair market value when condemning property for public projects.  The bill would enable a property owner to also be paid in full for the amount of the indebtedness on the property itself.  The League opposes the bill.

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930
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Retirement System Bills Move Forward

In addition to providing a 1 percent Cost of Living Adjustment for retirees of the Teachers and State Employees Retirement in the state budget bill (0 percent for local retirees), the legislature has been active in updating and revising a number of retirement system laws.  SB 803 Retirement Administrative Changes (Stevens) and SB 804 Retirement Technical Changes (Stevens) make numerous technical changes to improve the administration of the local retirement system, and both are on the House calendar.  Most notably, the ability to determine COLAs for local retirement retirees is vested in the local retirement system board of trustees, limited by investment gains in the system. 

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930
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New Mechanics Liens Bill Means More for Planning Departments

A methodically developed proposal to assist title insurance companies insure unencumbered real estate titles was passed by the House today.  SB 42 Mech. Liens/Pvt Lien Agent will require city building permit offices to collect and maintain additional information on lien agents when building permits are obtained on projects exceeding $30,000.  Cities will have until April 1, 2013 to change their permit systems should the bill become law. 

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930
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Tighter Municipal Incorporations Bill Moves Back to Finance

SB 231 Municipal Incorporations Standards (Hartsell) was passed from House Rules after language regarding water services was removed in agreement with the League.  The bill went to the floor but was then sent to House Finance before being voted on.  Rep. Larry Brown learned of an amendment requested to be added on the floor.  The amendment had not been reviewed by the League and, as it turns out, would have been extremely detrimental to the City of Durham and other cities.  The League thanks Rep. Larry Brown for his vigilance and quick action.

Contact: Kelli Kukura, 919.889.9040
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Upcoming Events

LINC in THURSDAY?

LINC in THURSDAY weekly legislative updates are Webinars this year! Get connected each Thursday afternoon at 3 o'clock for this short and to the point legislative update. Be sure to RSVP before the 3 o'clock start time!

Contact: Jennifer Webb, 919.715.1726

 

S. Ellis Hankins Kelli H. Kukura
Executive Director Director, Governmental Affairs