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Thank You!

Thank you to the hundreds of municipal officials who came to Raleigh last week for Town Hall Day. Your green ties and scarves made quite an impact in the General Assembly. We appreciate you all taking the time to be with us and meet with your legislators, and we hope to see you in Raleigh again soon.


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Senate Passes Budget

The Senate passed its version of the State budget on Thursday.  As with the House budget the only effect that the budget has on municipal revenues is the less than 1 percent reduction in Powell Bill funds that would result from capping the gas tax at 37.5 cents in FY 12-13.  This change would affect FY 13-14 distributions.  The Senate budget calls for a smaller reduction in public transportation operating grants than the House, but it also eliminates the $29 million in funding for the Regional New Starts and Capital Program.  This year's funds would go for development of Charlotte's Blue Line rail project, but other regions were counting on these funds in future years.  In other transportation-related provisions, the Senate shifted funds for the Garden Parkway and Mid-Currituck Bridge projects to the Mobility Fund, sped up adding tolls on ferry routes, delayed any possibility of tolls on I-95 until 2014, and placed new ethics rules on MPO and RPO members.  The Senate also made a $6 million reduction to the Rural Center's Infrastructure Program, which will limit the Center's ability to fund local projects.

House and Senate members are expected to be negotiating a final bill over the weekend. 

Contact: Karl Knapp, 919.715.9768


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Bill Would Eliminate Important Tax Audit Tool

An all-out late session push to eliminate contingent fee based tax auditing services by cable companies, retail merchants, and telecommunication companies has created HB 462 (Contingency Contracts for Audits/Assessments.  This bill would disable cities, counties, and the state from compensating tax auditing firms through contingent fees.  No doubt about it -- this bill protects tax dodgers by doing away with this important tax compliance tool, as most cities do not have the money to pay for internal audit staff, or pay for these services on an hourly basis.  Without contingent fees contracts, large amounts of taxable property will remain off the books, resulting in tax increases for honest taxpaying businesses and citizens

ACTION ALERT:  Please call Speaker Thom Tillis NOW, and tell him HB 462 needs to be stopped. 

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930


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Threat to Balanced Growth Via ETJ Continues

As reported in last week's bulletin, HB 1043 ETJ Restrictions (LaRoque, Moffitt) could be brought forward in committee at any time, or could be dropped into another existing bill.  The bill prohibits new extra-territorial jurisdictions (ETJ) in any area subject to county zoning.  ETJs with county subdivision regulations but without county zoning would require approval of the county commission.  Cities and towns strongly oppose this bill. Click here for message points to share with your legislators.

Also, SB 949 Town of Boone/ETJ (Soucek) remains in Senate Finance Committee.  The bill sets a very bad precedent by simply stripping the Town of Boone of its existing ETJ. 

Contact:  Kelli Kukura, 919.889.9040


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Concealed Gun Carry Issue Continues for Cities and Towns

HB 111 Amend Firearms Law (Hilton) came forward as a Proposed Committee Substitute (PCS) last week and was passed out of Senate Judiciary II Committee to Senate Finance Committee.  The bill defines the much-debated term "recreational facility" from the 2011 Long Session law defining where individuals with concealed carry permits could carry handguns.  HB 111 defines "recreational facility" -- where local governments may prohibit handguns by posting -- as only the following: a playground, an athletic field, a swimming pool, and an athletic facility.  The bill further expressly excludes from the definition any greenways, bike or walking paths, an area that could be a bike or walking path, and areas or fields where athletic events may occur but are not defined as such.  Thus, local governments could NOT prohibit handguns from these areas. The bill also allows for handguns in restaurants if not prohibited by posting and provides criminal penalties for felons who possess firearms when the violation results in injury to a person. The GA team is working with legislators to request that decisions regarding concealed carry in greenways and related areas, which are many times connected to/overlapping playgrounds and athletic fields, be left to the decision of local city councils, who best know what is right for their particular community.  It is unclear as to whether Senate Finance Committee, where the bill currently resides, will meet again before the end of the session. 

Contact: Kelli Kukura, 919.889.9040


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Natural Gas Extraction Bill Nears Passage

The House approved a bill, SB 820 Clean Energy and Economic Security Act, after nearly four hours of debate this week. The bill would legalize natural gas extraction and put in place a framework for creating the rules and regulations surrounding the practice. Thanks to the many League members who called legislators and testified during committee meetings over the past few weeks, the League successfully fought back attempts to preempt all local government authority to set restrictions around this industrial activity, and gained a municipal seat on the newly-created Mining & Energy Commission, which will oversee all natural gas extraction regulations.

Read the League's account of how the proposal passed the Senate last week.

Read about yesterday's House debate in The Pilot (Pinehurst).

Contact: Erin Wynia, 919.715.4126


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Shooting Range Bill Pulled

A revised version of SB380 ETJ/Definition of Bona Fide Farm Purposes (Jackson), which was to be heard Tuesday in the House Agriculture Committee, was pulled from the committee agenda at the request of the bill champion, Rep. David Lewis.  The new version of the bill would have created, by right, the ability of landowners in the unincorporated area of the county (including the ETJ) to operate various types of shooting ranges as "agritourism" lands.  The League opposed the bill, and it was withdrawn by Rep. Lewis, who artfully stated at the committee meeting that a study of these issues was necessary to mitigate the expansion of very problematic land uses acting as bona fide farms. 

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930


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Condemnation-Related Bailout Bill Passes House

HB 960 Protect Homeowners with Underwater Mortgages (Moffitt) was approved by the House after significant debate, amendments, and discussion.  The bill authorizes condemnation proceedings under Chapter 136 (typically transportation-related) to include not just fair market value in determining the price to be paid to a property owner, but the amount owed on the property itself, in order to protect underwater mortgage holders.  The outstanding debt on the residential property is NOT limited to debt related to the purchase of the property.  The bill is opposed by the League because it will drive up the cost of public infrastructure projects. It has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.   

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930


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ElectriCities' Use of Rate Revenue Bill Passes House

 HB 1114 NCEMPA/Use of Rate Revenue (Brawley) passed the House this week. The bill applies to members of the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency and requires that funds transferred cannot be more than 3% of the gross capital assets of the electric system at the end of the preceding year and cannot be more than 5% of the gross annual revenues of the system for the preceding year.  Representatives Collins and Daughtry both referenced concern for their towns' electric rates and again called on Progress and Duke Energy to help.

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930


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New Information for Permits?

A bill draft is being developed behind the scenes which will require cities to gather additional information from individuals obtaining building permits.  Should a bill come together and run this session, new information regarding lien agents and potential claimants will be collected by cities when permits are issued.  We will keep you informed of future developments on this potential legislation.

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930


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Bill Narrows Permitting for Compost Facilities

Municipal yard waste compost facilities will face more narrowly-tailored permitting in SB 229 Amend Environmental Laws 2012 (East), the annual tradition of massing many environmental law changes into one mega-bill. The GA team worked to ensure the compost provision, one of twenty-three separate issues addressed, would limit permitting of Type I compost facilities to state and/or federal stormwater permitting actions and would exclude wastewater permitting. Regulating these facilities came in 2009 legislation in response to concerns of contaminated stormwater runoff from the facilities' piles of yard waste, windrows, and finished compost.

Contact: Erin Wynia, 919.715.4126


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Bill Would Establish Citizen Review Board for Fayetteville Police

SB 939 Fayetteville Review Board (Meredith) was approved by the Senate early this week and has moved to the House for further consideration. The bill applies to Fayetteville only and would establish a citizens review board to investigate complaints against police officers.
 
Contact: Kelli Kukura, 919.889.9040

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League Files Comments on Mercury Clean-up Plan for Water Bodies

The League filed comments on the state's proposed mercury water body clean-up plan and wastewater permitting strategy today. In the comments, the League reiterated its opposition to this unprecedented plan and urged modifications of the accompanying wastewater permitting strategy. Although the state estimates that sources of air emissions contribute 98% of the mercury found in state waters, the only entities facing further regulation with this plan are wastewater dischargers, which are estimated to contribute a mere two percent of the mercury loading in waters.

Read background on the plan in EcoLINC, the League's monthly electronic environmental newsletter.

Contact: Erin Wynia, 919.715.4126


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Transitional Hold Harmless Extension Looks Bleak

While the 114 cities and towns, and 17 counties, asking for a 2-year extension of the ten-year Transitional Hold Harmless funds received significant support from the House in HB 142, the Senate has not been supportive of the change.  Currently HB 142, which includes the Transitional Hold Harmless provision, sits in Senate Rules committee, with the items supported by the Senate included in other bills.  Even after heavy lobbying of key Senators, the issue is not gaining any support.  Unless the GA team and cities affected can find some support among their Senators very quickly, the chance for an extension is unlikely. 

Contact: Kelli Kukura, 919-889-9040


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Pension Fraud Bill Advances

The House Pensions Committee approved HB 1074 Stop Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Govt. Act (Moffitt) yesterday, and the bill now moves to the House Finance Committee.  The bill contains numerous provisions to prevent and eliminate fraudulent activities in the Local Government Employers' Retirement System.  Of note, a provision regarding compensation "spiking" by local employees was removed in the most recent version of the bill.  We expect the bill to be approved by the House by the end of the session.

Contact: Paul Meyer, 919.715.3930


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Federal Issues Update

Transportation Funding -- An agreement between the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on a long-term transportation funding plan looks grim.  The current funding extension bill expires at the end of June.  House Speaker John Boehner has now proposed yet another extension, this one for six months, taking the issue out of play until after the November elections.  Click here to read about the difficulties.

Brighter Outlook for CDBG -- Community Development Block Grant funding got a little boost last week as the House Committee on Appropriations' Transportation Subcommittee passed its first draft of the FY 2013 Transportation-HUD spending bill. The House has provided $3.34 billion for the CDBG, an increase of $396 million above last year. The rest of the story, however, is that Congress is expected to abandon the 'normal' process where the spending bill passing both the House and Senate committees provides a relatively accurate look at likely funding.  Therefore, much uncertainty remains regarding the final outcome. 

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