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We're Back...

After catching our breath following the end of the legislative session -- and working on getting you our exhaustive 2013 End of Session Bulletin -- the League's Governmental Affairs team is back at work serving all of North Carolina's cities and towns. Starting with this email, we will be sending you weekly communications each Friday through the beginning of the legislative Short Session next May. Updates will focus on what's happening in Raleigh that will impact municipalities, but if you have anything happening locally you would like highlighted, please email us and let us know. Thank you for all that you do for the citizens of North Carolina.
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Governor Signs Reg Reform Bill, Vetoes 2 Others

Earlier today Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB 74 Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, the session's comprehensive regulatory reform bill. At the same time he issued an executive order addressing billboard regulations that he said "closes a loophole, ensures local input and protects North Carolina from excessive clear cutting from outdoor advertising companies." The excessive order does require that the N.C. Department of Transportation "consult with local municipalities" before approving plans for vegetation removal outside of the cut or removal zone along acceleration and deceleration ramps, but there is no requirement that the municipalities' input be incorporated into those plans. Under existing law in G.S. 136-93(d), selective vegetation removal permits for sites within the corporate limits of a municipality require consultation with cities that have requested NCDOT consult with them.

Last week Gov. McCrory vetoed the first two bills of his tenure -- HB 392 Warrant Status/Public Assist. and HB 786 RECLAIM NC Act. For HB 392, Gov. McCrory expressed concerns about a provision allowing social service workers to test welfare applicants for illegal drugs. On HB 786, his concern was that the legislation could lead to the hiring of additional illegal immigrants. Both bills passed in the General Assembly by comfortable margins, meaning that legislators could have the votes to override. As he is required to do, Gov. McCrory called the General Assembly back into session on Sept. 3, though lawmakers could still choose not to convene and attempt to override the vetoes.

In addition to the regulatory reform bill, the Governor today also signed 32 other bills that were awaiting his action. They included bills the League had worked on like HB 476 Rewrite Underground Damage Prevention Act and HB 857 Public Contracts/Construction Methods/DB/P3. Gov. McCrory also announced that he would allow the remaining bill on his desk, HB 522 Foreign Laws/Protect Constitutional Rights, to become law without his signature.


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Rural Center Grants Continue to Be Reviewed, Approved

Ever since Gov. Pat McCrory made the decision last month to freeze state funding to the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, the Governor's budget office has been reviewing and approving pending grants. Still, many questions remain about the status of Rural Center grants. Anyone with questions about funding from the Rural Center should contact Vice President for Finance and Administration Susan Dunn via email or at (919) 250-4314. Meanwhile, based on findings from a state audit of the Rural Center, legislators have raised concerns about state policy that allows nonprofits receiving state funding to keep the interest earned when that money is invested.
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Legislative Committee Set to Consider Transportation Recommendations

The Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, Sept. 10, to consider N.C. Department of Transportation recommendations related to the transportation reform legislation passed this year. Those recommendations were developed through an intensive workgroup process that included a representative from the League. In addition, a small group of League members provided feedback on the workgroup process to League staff throughout the course of those meetings, and we thank them for their input on this important issue for all of North Carolina's cities and towns.
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Sen. Kinnaird Resigns from Legislature

This week Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, an Orange County Democrat serving her ninth term in the N.C. Senate, announced her resignation, effective immediately. The former mayor of the Town of Carrboro said she planned to work on a grass-roots project to ensure that all eligible voters had the proper photo ID that will soon be required of them. The League has always enjoyed working with Sen. Kinnaird and wishes her all the best in the future. A number of individuals -- including current Rep. Valerie Foushee, former Rep. Alice Bordsen, and current Carrboro mayor Mark Chilton -- have already expressed an interest in taking over for Sen. Kinnaird.
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League Accepting Nominations for 2nd VP, Board Vacancies

League President and Emerald Isle Mayor Art Schools recently appointed the League's 2013 Nominating Committee, which will recommend a slate of officers and directors for the membership's consideration at the League's Annual Conference in Hickory. The office of second vice president is vacant, as are a number of seats on the Board of Directors. More information on the vacant seats can be found here. Those wishing to make nominations for second vice president and the Board of Directors should submit the nominations in writing to the Nominating Committee Chair, Mayor Derryl Garner, at the League office, 215 North Dawson St., Raleigh, NC 27603, or via email to Regan Reynolds, by Friday, Sept. 27.
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National League of Cities Rolls Out Muni Bond Impact Calculator

The National League of Cities has developed a tool to help cities calculate the additional costs they would face from federal proposals to repeal or replace the tax exemption on municipal bond interest with a 28% investor deduction cap. The calculator is available on NLC's website. It allows issuers to input the annual interest rate on a debt issuance, the term of the loan, and principle amount, and quickly generate the projected cost impact of each federal proposal. With members of Congress home in their districts for the month-long August recess, this is the right time to meet with your Representatives and Senators and show them changing the tax exemption would increase the cost of borrowing for your citizens.
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State Water Programs Undergo Reorganization

As of Aug. 1, the former Division of Water Quality and Division of Water Resources within the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have been consolidated into the Division of Water Resources. More information on the consolidation is available in a video message from Division Director Tom Reeder and an agency-produced FAQ document, as well as this article from the most recent edition of EcoLINC. Reeder said that among the division's initial tasks would be compiling a list of all unnecessary rules for the N.C. Environmental Management Commission by the end of the year. The reorganization could also lead to a reduction in DENR staffing levels, which Secretary John Skvarla addressed during a recent talk.
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Want to Serve on a League Policy Committee?

The League is looking for members interested in serving on a Legislative Action Committee or the Regulatory Action Committee. These committees play an integral role in crafting the policies League members vote on every two years at the Advocacy Goals Conference. If you are interested in serving on one of these committees, please complete this form and return it to League Governmental Affairs Assistant Cara Bridges.
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Debate Over Film Tax Credit Continues

An extensive recent article by WRAL examined the state of North Carolina's tax credit for film production, which is currently set to expire on Jan. 1, 2015. Proponents of the credit argue that the film industry generates a significant economic impact for the state in the form of jobs and tourist activity, while critics question the true benefit as compared to the cost of the credit itself. North Carolina cities and towns selected removing the film credit's sunset date as one of their Municipal Advocacy Goals for the 2013-14 biennium.
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Post-Hearing Brief Filed in Duke Rate Case

This week a post-hearing brief in the Duke Energy Carolinas rate case was filed to the N.C. Utilities Commission on behalf of the League. The brief follows up on testimony offered at a hearing last month. The League has intervened in this case with the support of more than 100 League members who belong to the N.C. Municipal Energy Group, and as a result of intervention by the League and other parties, Duke has made concessions that will benefit municipalities, including halving the rate request it initially requested. A final order in this case is likely to be issued in the coming weeks.