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League Works on Alternative PLT Reform Proposal as $100 Cap Legislation Advances

While League staff continue their months-long negotiations with legislative leadership on the topic of local privilege license reform, the House Finance Committee advanced omnibus legislation that includes a $100 per physical location cap on the local tax. That bill, HB 1050 Omnibus Tax Law Changes, has been placed on the House calendar for Tuesday. While members of the committee voiced concern over the cap's impact on city finances, others said the tax harms city economic development efforts and was long overdue for reform. League members chose reform of the privilege license tax as one of their top advocacy priorities for the 2013-14 biennium. However, the proposal currently under consideration is projected by legislative staff to cost cities as much as $25 million, and the League believes those losses could be much higher, due to current estimates assuming cities will increase taxes on businesses currently paying less than $100 and that cities will be able to locate and collect taxes from all of the businesses newly required to pay this tax.

Also discussed in the committee was the idea that municipalities' authority to levy the local privilege license tax was mistakenly removed from statute last year. Due to what was termed in the committee as a "drafting error," current statutes do not include the statute authorizing municipalities to levy the local privilege license tax. While the League does not believe the legislation passed actually repeals this authority, the League, legislative staff, and a School of Government expert agree that the authority to collect privilege licenses in the current fiscal year is intact, due to the legislation in question being effective for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2014. HB 1050 does include a technical fix that will correct last year's drafting error.

As noted above, the League is continuing to work with House and Senate leadership on an alternative proposal that will address many concerns with the current privilege license system while lessening the revenue impact on cities, both for the coming fiscal year and the future. Please continue talking with your legislators regarding the budgetary impact the current reform proposal would have in your community. Contact: Chris Nida


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ACTION ALERT: Aesthetics Bill to Hit Senate Floor Monday

Voice opposition to your local Senators now regarding HB 150 Zoning/Design & Aesthetic Controls, scheduled for debate by the full Senate Monday. The bill, which already passed the House during last year's Long Session, would prevent municipalities from imposing design and aesthetic controls on most one- or two-family dwellings. The types of controls that would be prevented by this bill included requirements related to exterior building color, roof style, location of windows and doors, and the number and types of rooms in the house. Municipalities often use these types of requirements to preserve the character of existing neighborhoods and bolster the compatibility of new development, furthering economic development in their communities. If the Senate approves the bill, it must return to the House for a concurring vote before advancing to the Governor for his consideration. Contact: Erin Wynia


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Gov. McCrory Releases State Budget Proposal

Gov. Pat McCrory released his proposed state budget this week, focusing his announcement of the budget on pay increases for teachers and additional Department of Environment and Natural Resources positions to oversee the state's coal ash ponds. Among the highlights for cities and towns are a projected 6.7 percent increase ($9.5 million) in Powell Bill funds due to higher than expected motor fuels tax collections; funding for additional auditor positions in the Department of Revenue's Local Government Division to assist with local government audit requests, a move supported by both the League and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners; a refinement and extension of the Historic Rehabilitation Investment Program; and $500,000 in non-recurring funds for the Main Street Solutions Program. More details in the budget can be found in the presentation State Budget Director Art Pope made to members of the General Assembly Thursday. A top Senate budget writer told the News & Observer Thursday that the Senate's budget was likely to look "a little different" than the Governor's proposal and that he expected it to be released within two to three weeks.
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League Board Meets to Discuss Legislative and Strategic Priorities

The League of Municipalities Board of Directors met in Raleigh Wednesday to hear organizational updates and provide guidance on key strategic initiatives the organization should undertake in the future. Among the presentations was a discussion facilitated by Legislative and Regulatory Issues Manager Erin Wynia and Director of Research and Policy Analysis Chris Nida on the importance of cities to economic development and growth in the state, and how to effectively communicate these concepts to legislators and the public. Board members ended the meeting with a visit to the General Assembly, where Town Hall Day invitations were delivered and members discussed key legislative issues, including privilege license tax reform and municipal tree ordinance authority, with their respective House and Senate representatives.


Members of the NCLM Board of Directors at the North Carolina General Assembly


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Committee Strips, Replaces Erosion Infrastructure Provision

In an unusual move, the Legislative Review Commission stripped a study committee recommendation Tuesday that would have transferred liability for incomplete infrastructure to local governments, replacing it with a measure that would instead require erosion control device designers to certify that the infrastructure was designed correctly and would be installed according to an approved sedimentation and erosion control plan. The idea for this proposal arose out of troubles with a development in Lowell. Discussions by an interim study committee focused on which entity bore responsibility for failing residential community infrastructure, such as retaining walls or other common stormwater devices; the committee's original recommendation placed that liability on local governments. In completely removing that liability provision, the new recommendation responded to concerns by committee members that local governments should not be exposed to liability that was more appropriately assigned to developers. Contact: Erin Wynia
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NCLM Extends Condolences to Family of Keith Crisco

The League offers its condolences to the family and friends of  former North Carolina Department of Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco, who died on Monday. At the time of his death, Crisco was a candidate in the race for North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District. He also served as chair of the North Carolina Communities and Business Alliance and was a former Asheboro City Council Member. "Keith Crisco was an accomplished businessman and a dedicated public servant whose work made our state better," said NCLM Executive Director Paul Meyer. "He was a humble person who spent his life working to improve the lives of others. He has been a friend to the League and an advocate for sound municipal governance. Keith's passing is a great loss and we send our heartfelt condolences on behalf of all cities and towns to his family and friends."
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2014 NCLM Town Hall Day Registration Closes Wednesday

Next Wednesday will be the last day to register for the League's annual Town Hall Day event. This year's Town Hall Day will take place on Wednesday, June 4 in Raleigh, where hundreds of elected and appointed municipal officials will meet with legislators to discuss pressing issues relevant to local governments. The full day of lobbying will come to a close with a legislative reception at the NC Museum of History, to be attended by municipal officials, legislators, legislative staff, and state agency representatives. We are also honored to welcome North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata and Assistant Secretary for Rural Economic Development Dr. Patricia Mitchell to a state agency panel discussion as a part of the Town Hall Day events. For the complete schedule, visit the Town Hall Day website. Pre-registration for the event closes on Wednesday, May 21, but on-site registration will be available. Click here to register.    
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Veteran Reporter Mooneyham to Join League's Governmental Affairs Team

The League is excited to announce the hiring of Scott Mooneyham, who will join the governmental affairs team as the organization's advocacy communications strategist. Mooneyham served as the editor for the N.C. Insider through the last decade, where he wrote and edited daily reports on key issues at the General Assembly and in North Carolina state government. Mooneyham will join the League on May 27 and will manage legislative and advocacy communications. Click here to read more.
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DOT Transportation Project Ratings Unveiled

On Wednesday, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) released ratings of 3,100 North Carolina transportation projects as part of a project prioritization process established by legislation last year. The full data and rating reports can be viewed here. The data-driven ratings evaluated the projects based on such factors as reduction in congestion, benefit/cost, and safety. DOT will begin accepting public feedback on these ratings in June. League staff served on the working group that provided input on the implementation of the legislation that gave rise to the new project ranking system last year. Contact: Whitney Christensen
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Welcome New League Interns

The League's Governmental Affairs team is excited to have four interns joining the team this week -- two undergraduate interns and two legal interns.

  • Shawnda Martin will be in her third year at North Carolina Central School of Law in the fall and previously interned with Sen. Earline Parmon.
  • Felicia Hyde will be in her second year at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law in the fall and previously interned with the House Republican Caucus.
  • Sara Locklear is a rising senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, is a political science and history major, and is the daughter of Richard Locklear -- the attorney for the Town of Landis.
  • Will Richardson is a rising sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill and is a political science major.

They all bring a variety of valuable experience and will be assisting members of the team with research, bill tracking, and legislative monitoring, among other tasks. Please join us in welcoming Shawnda, Felicia, Sara, and Will.


Top: Will Richardson, Sara Locklear; Bottom: Felicia Hyde, Shawnda Martin


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MEC Examines Full Hydraulic Fracturing Rule Package

The N.C. Mining & Energy Commission (MEC) met yesterday and today to tackle the arduous task of reviewing its entire body of rules regarding the management and development of oil and gas exploration. Rules related to impact fees, infrastructure damage mitigation, and setbacks all prompted lengthy discussions. Although no vote was taken, MEC Chair Jim Womack indicated the Commission would vote at its next meeting (June 5-6) to send the rule set to public hearing. In discussions, Commissioners acknowledged the Energy Modernization Act, recommended last week (read more) and filed yesterday, recognizing the effects its passage would have on their rulemaking efforts. To accommodate the Commission's rulemaking timeline, the Act included an extension of the deadline for rulemaking by three months (extending to January 1, 2015). Contact: Sarah Collins


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Legislators Introduce Slew of Expected Study-Approved Bills

In the first two days of the Short Session, legislators introduced numerous bills recommended by interim study committees. Study committee-recommended bills face a Wednesday deadline for introduction. The League participated in many of these studies over the past half-year, both in standing interim committees such as the Revenue Laws Study Committee and the Environmental Review Commission, as well as the dozens of committees authorized by the Legislative Review Commission. The expected legislation resulting from these studies that was already filed this week included:

Contact Erin Wynia with questions about environment or energy bills; contact Whitney Christensen for all other bills.


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U.S. Senate Committee Advances Transportation Funding Proposal

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee yesterday unanimously approved the bipartisan MAP-21 Reauthorization Act, a proposal introduced by the Committee's leadership. The $265 billion bill addressed critical transportation funding for the next six years and reauthorized the federal gas tax. Without further action by Congress, the national Highway Trust Fund would likely run out of funds sometime this summer. However, Senators stated that the bill would not advance further without a bipartisan funding mechanism to cover shortfalls between gas tax revenues and transportation needs. The Senate Committee proposal fell short of the four-year, $302 billion proposal advanced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx two weeks ago. N.C. cities and towns supported a solution to continue federal transportation funding; federal dollars make up 27 percent of all highway spending in North Carolina. Contact: Erin Wynia
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Committee Recommends Revival of Community Work Crew Program

On Wednesday, the Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee made two recommendations to the legislature for approval. Among the recommendations was a proposal to revive and continue the Community Work Crew program. This program allows local governments and state agencies to hire small groups of supervised inmates for manual labor projects. The full report is available here, with the two committee recommendations on page 25. Contact: Whitney Christensen
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LRC Forwards Committee Reports to the General Assembly

In addition to the amended report from the Committee on Land Development, the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) also voted on Tuesday to recommend twelve other committee reports to the General Assembly, including the following which were not amended by the Commission:

If you have any questions about these recommendations, please contact Whitney Christensen.


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Natural Gas Testing to Begin in N.C. Mountains

Speaking to the Sedimentation Control Commission (SCC) yesterday, state geologist Kenneth Taylor told commissioners that the N.C. Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would begin testing rock samples taken in several western North Carolina counties this summer to determine the total organic carbon content of those rocks (further description on pg. 7-8). Such testing does not involve land disturbances. Taylor said that similar work performed in the mountainous regions of Georgia and Tennessee revealed the potential for natural gas formations in those areas. This project would confirm if similar conditions existed in the following N.C. counties: Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain. In addition, Taylor said, the USGS proposed -- though has not yet authorized -- similar studies in a basin that underlies Cumberland, Hoke, Johnston, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, and Wayne counties. Taylor's comments came as the SCC assigned oversight of all sedimentation and erosion control permitting in areas of oil and gas activities to the Division of Energy, Minerals, and Land Resources' Energy Section. Contact: Erin Wynia
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Deannexation Bills Filed to Meet Municipal Requests

A series of local deannexation bills were filed this week,
affecting Lake Lure (HB 1056), Murphy (HB 1067/SB 736), Rockingham (SB 767), and Watha (HB 1080/SB 733). Each deannexation was
requested by the municipality affected. Contact: Erin Wynia