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Happy Easter Weekend!

Due to tomorrow's Good Friday holiday, we are bringing you the LeagueLINC Bulletin a day early, and in a slightly abbreviated form. We will be back next week on our regular schedule, with all of the latest from the Legislature and elsewhere on news important to cities and towns across the state. On behalf of the League staff, have a great Easter weekend!
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House, Senate Approve Gas Tax Deal

In bipartisan votes, the House and Senate each gave their approval this week to legislation that will stabilize transportation revenue going forwarding, including local Powell Bill funds. SB 20 IRC Update/Motor Fuels Changes, which was quickly signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, provides an immediate cut to gas taxes, but also drops a volatile formula that had tied the tax to the wholesale price of gasoline. That formula, had it not been changed, would have led to a loss of more than $250 million in road-building and maintenance dollars in the next fiscal year, a drop that would have negatively affected Powell Bill funds.

Legislative leaders reached a deal on competing versions of SB 20 late last week. The League has been heavily involved in advocating for the legislation's passage since the Senate rolled out the bill in February. We want to again thank and congratulate legislators for coming to an agreement on this critical piece of legislation. Thanks also to Governor McCrory and to all of you for your work on behalf of its passage.

The gas tax, which had been set at 37.5 cents per gallon, immediately fell to 36 cents on Wednesday, a day after the bill's passage. It will fall to 35 cents in January and 34 cents in July 2016. Going forward, it will be adjusted once a year, instead of twice each year, and tied to new formula that focuses on population growth and inflation.

The League will continue to advocate for passage of other transportation measures that call for additional infrastructure investments and further stabilize transportation revenue streams. Read previous League coverage about the gas tax legislation here. Read media coverage about passage of the bill here. Contact: Rose Williams


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Building Inspection Bill Faces Mounting Concerns

After a House Regulatory Reform Committee hearing Tuesday in which the committee chair limited public comment to a total of three minutes, HB 255 Building Code Reg. Reform faced growing concerns from a variety of stakeholder groups. As a result, House leaders pulled the bill from consideration by the full House yesterday and redirected it for a second committee hearing, this time in the House Finance Committee. The League worked with primary bill sponsor Rep. Mark Brody and development community representatives earlier in the week to address concerns with the bill, and the League members appreciate the willingness of these interests to continue discussions as the bill receives more consideration. Now, the League is working to address three primary issues in the bill:

  • A method for resolving disputes between building inspectors and residential contractors that does not involve action before a licensing board; rather, the League supports an informal appeals process within the local government unit
  • Elimination of authority to conduct plan review of residential building plans for adherence to the state building code
  • How to define what constitutes a "full inspection"

The bill will likely undergo further revision as it makes its way through the legislative process, and the League thanks Rep. Brody for creating an open channel of communication to discuss these remaining concerns. Read more background on the original version of this bill in last week's LeagueLINC Bulletin. Contact: Erin Wynia


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Welcome Karen Waddell!

Please join us in welcoming Karen Waddell to the Governmental Affairs Team as Government Affairs Coordinator. Karen comes to the League after spending the last five-and-a-half years as Paralegal to the Director of Government Affairs and Legislative Counsel at the N.C. Department of Insurance. In that role, she was the department's rule-making coordinator, a role that included drafting and filing rules, scheduling and conducting hearings, and monitoring and complying with deadlines. She also served as the department's Constituent Affairs Coordinator to the General Assembly, a role that involved a number of activities involving connecting and facilitating communication between various constituency groups, legislators and department personnel. Before working at the Department of Insurance, she served as a paralegal to private law firms and to a mortgage loan company acting as the loan processor and loan closer. In her role at the League, Karen will help coordinate Governmental Affairs Team activities, oversee bill tracking, facilitate contacts with legislators and members, and help plan and carry out team events. She replaces Cara Bridges, who left the League in January to take a position on the General Assembly's fiscal staff. Karen has hit the ground running, and we all here look forward to continuing to work with her as we go forward.

   

New Government Affairs Coordinator Karen Waddell


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Possible Back-up PSAP Implementation Extension

Legislation filed Wednesday would modify the 2014 statutory changes that required primary 911 call centers, also known public safety answering points (PSAPs), to have back-up capabilities. HB 512 - Amend/Clarify Back-Up PSAP Requirements would require that a primary PSAP only have made substantial progress toward implementation of a "plan and means" for 911 call-taking in the event 911 calls cannot be received and processed in the primary PSAP by a July 1, 2016 deadline. That deadline, falling on the date of scheduled 911 Fund disbursements, was established in last year's legislation.

Two other 911 related bills -- HB 506 - 911 Fund Distribution and SB 571 - Expand Uses of 911 Fee -- would allow for an appeal of PSAP distribution denials, among other provisions. Contact: Sarah Collins


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One-Third of House Bill Total Introduced This Week

Nearly a third of the House bills introduced so far this session were filed this week, in part because that chamber faced a deadline to file all local bills by Wednesday. The House has one more significant bill filing deadline, April 16. Meanwhile, because the Senate's deadlines all passed last week, that chamber saw no bills filed this week. House bills of interest to municipalities filed this week included:


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New Round of TIGER Grants to be Awarded

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has announced that $500 million will be made available for transportation projects in a new round of awards under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery competitive grant program. A number of North Carolina cities and towns have received grants in previous rounds of program awards. The pre-application deadline for grant applications is May 4 and the final application deadline is June 5. Find more about the program and the grant application process here.
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Meetings on Municipal Finance, Listening Tour Upcoming!

Two series of League meetings will continue in coming days. The third meeting in a series examining the future of municipal finance is set to be held in Pineville on April 13, while the League's Listening and Visioning Tour with Executive Director Paul Meyer will come to more towns and cities over the next few weeks. The Pineville meeting is a part of a series that we are calling A Path Forward: Vibrant Cities Today and Tomorrow. As in previous stops in Southport and Burlington, the meeting will examine the financial challenges faced by cities and towns across the state. Learn more about the event and register here. The first stops on the League's Listening and Visioning Tour were held this week in Sylva, Marion and Wilkesboro. Next week's stops include Manteo, Ahoskie and Wake Forest. Join Paul and Grassroots Coordinator Vickie Miller at the events by registering here.
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Bill to Change Land Application Regulations Heard

HB 61 Local Control/Land Application of Biosolids was heard by the the House Local Government Committee today, but the meeting was quickly adjourned before a vote could be taken on a motion for an unfavorable report. The motion, had it been successful, could have killed the bill for the remainder of the two-year legislative session.  

The attempt to kill the legislation came after several members of the committee requested more information and that discussions be delayed. Rep. Gary Pendleton told committee members that he wanted time to get feedback from the League. The League thanks Rep. Pendleton, along with Rep. Stephen Ross and Rep. Charles Jeter, who both noted that biosolids are already heavily regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Rep. Ross also pointed out the large cost implications for wastewater utilities if the bill should pass.

The League opposes this bill because it would limit the land application practices and disrupt well-established law that leaves regulation of biosolids at the state and federal levels. By allowing county boards to dictate how residuals from wastewater utilities are disposed, the bill could prove costly for municipal utilities if they are forced to change their treatment processes. Contact: Sarah Collins