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State of the State, and Other Firsts

This week in Raleigh saw Gov. Pat McCrory deliver his first State of the State address and sign his first bill into law. The Governor continues to expound upon his "mayor-like" approach to governing the state -- getting people together to solve problems. Meanwhile, appropriations committees in the House and Senate continue to meet on a daily basis, while bill filings, and debate over a handful of issues involving city governments, rolled forward. Expect a significant increase in the pace of the session in the next few weeks. Contact: Paul Meyer 
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ACTION ALERT: Contact Legislators NOW on League Transitional Hold Harmless Advocacy Goal

This week, we learned that potential bill sponsors in both the House and Senate are building support among their colleagues for a bill -- not yet introduced -- to extend the transitional hold harmless payments to affected cities and towns. Now is the time to meet with your local delegation* and let them know the budgetary impacts your city or town will experience without transitional hold harmless payments. The annual transitional hold harmless payment, made to those cities and towns that suffered a revenue loss when the General Assembly swapped reimbursement payments for a local option 1/2 cent sales tax in 2002, ends FY 2012-13. This is not the City Hold Harmless payment received monthly along with sales tax, which was part of a swap on the county share of Medicaid in 2007. Read the League's talking points. Contact: Erin Wynia.
*Login to your LeagueLINC account to get contact information for your legislators.


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Public Records, Meetings Violations Could Be Criminalized

Denial of access to public records and violation of the open meetings laws would be a punishable by a Class 3 misdemeanor under the terms of a bill filed this week. SB 125 Public Meeting/Records Law Violations is co-sponsored by Sen. Thom Goolsby and Sen. Tom Apodaca. Sen. Goolsby announced on his Twitter account that this is the first of three "sunshine bills" that will be filed this session. The open meetings and public records laws already provide sufficient protections for those who feel they were wrongly denied access to public records or public meetings by allowing them to recover attorneys' fees from governments who are found to be at fault. Contact: Paul Meyer
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Forced Transfer of Charlotte Airport Promoted

Against the wishes of the City of Charlotte, the Senate Rules Committee approved a bill to forcibly transfer ownership of Charlotte Douglas International Airport from Charlotte to a new Charlotte Regional Airport Authority. SB 81 Charlotte Regional Airport Authority (Sen. Bob Rucho) establishes a thirteen-member regional authority, including representatives appointed by the City of Charlotte (2), six counties in the region, the Speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the N.C. Senate, the Governor of N.C., and two at-large members appointed by the other eleven members. The bill places significant restrictions on the use of eminent domain powers by the regional authority. Furthermore, the proposed legislation empowers the regional authority to hold lands for any airport within the limits of the counties which comprise the authority. The League opposes the bill as infringing on the authority of local communities to determine whether regionalization of an enterprise is appropriate. Contact: Paul Meyer
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Local Funding Issues Raised in State Budget Meetings

The joint appropriations committees continued to review State spending this week and questions related to cities and towns were raised in two committees. In the Transportation Subcommittee, Senators Don Davis (D-Greene) and Joel Ford (D-Mecklenburg) asked whether State funding requirements could be reduced by transferring some State roads to city control. The subcommittee chairman noted that cities had opposed these transfers in the past but did not say that they were off the table. In the Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee, several members expressed concern that the SBI does not charge local law enforcement agencies for investigative assistance it provides to them.  These types of questions highlight the importance of letting your legislative delegation know what budgetary pressures your government faces, and urging them not to balance the State budget on the backs of cities and towns. Contact: Karl Knapp
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Campaign Sign Regulation Clarified Under Proposed Bill

A bill filed this week would clarify that any municipal ordinance regulating or prohibiting the placement of campaign signs would apply to all streets within a municipality's corporate limits. Legislation passed in 2011 creating a state system of regulation for political signs allowed municipalities to pass their own regulations, but under that law those regulations applied only to municipally-maintained streets. This led to confusion in some cities as a different set of regulations applied to different streets based on whether those streets were local or part of the state highway system. SB 105 Clarify Political Sign Ordinance Authority makes clear that any municipal ordinance on this matter applies to all streets within a municipality's limits, not just those that are maintained by the municipality. Contact: Chris Nida
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Governor Signs Unemployment Reform Bill

On February 19, Gov. McCrory signed into law HB 4 UI Fund Solvency & Program Changes, which makes a number of changes to the state’s unemployment insurance system. Among them are changes to the way that municipalities that choose to be a reimbursable employer participate in the system. The League has prepared a memo to help explain those changes and how they will be implemented. Contact: Karl Knapp
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Hydraulic Fracturing Changes Move Along In Senate

The Senate Commerce Committee amended SB 76 Domestic Energy Jobs Act (Sen. Andrew Brock) Thursday, most significantly to prohibit the disposal of hydraulic fracturing fluid or "brine" from production sites outside of the state, then gave the bill a favorable report. The full Senate will take up the bill next week. The committee's debate left previous provisions unchanged, retaining a measure that provides a system of taxation of the hydraulic fracturing industry and allows cities and counties to collect Article 11 property taxes on related activities, and another that ends the current moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and allows permits to be issued on March 1, 2015. Furthermore, it proposes a wide variety of other changes to the processes and boards overseeing the industry and energy development in the state. Read more in this month's EcoLINC, published Tuesday. Contact: Erin Wynia
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Bill Would Require Property Tax Refund To Deannexed Areas

This week Senator Thom Goolsby of New Hanover County filed SB 97 Property Tax/Deannexation. The bill would prohibit municipalities from collecting property taxes from any taxpayer in an area that was part of the municipality for less than six months prior to deannexation and that had not yet been notified of the taxes due. SB 97 targets the Monkey Junction area of New Hanover County, which meets the bill's standards and was legislatively deannexed from the City of Wilmington during the 2012 General Assembly session. It is our understanding that the bill, as written, would apply to no other existing areas, though it could still apply to other areas that fit the bill's criteria in the future. Contact: Chris Nida
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RSVP With Your Plans to Visit Raleigh

We continue to hear how critical it is for elected officials and local leadership to have a presence at the General Assembly. Please take a few moments to check your calendars and make plans to come to Raleigh to attend Town Hall Day March 27. Remember to visit with your Senators and Representatives when they're home for the weekend. Once you have a plan of contact, email LeagueLINC to share your plans. Let us know when you're coming to Raleigh and we'll help with making appointments and an agenda for the day. Contact: Jennifer Webb