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Municipal Service District Bill Expands Procedures

Legislators in both chambers filed an expected municipal service district (MSD) bill this week that expands and strengthens the procedures related to establishing, enlarging and abolishing districts. The League generally supports the proposal and appreciates primary bill sponsors Sen. Trudy Wade and Rep. Ted Davis for working with the League on clarifications of the existing MSD law. A MSD is a specialized taxing district created to provide properties in the district with additional services. Most often in North Carolina, municipal boards form them to provide business owners enhanced downtown development services. Many coastal communities use them to finance beach renourishment projects. The identical House and Senate bills filed this week gained approval by an interim legislative study committee which heard from numerous city and town officials. Contact: Erin Wynia

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Bill Sets Economic Tier System Study in Motion

House and Senate leaders filed identical companion bills this week that set in motion a study of the state's economic tier system. Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown and House Finance Committee Chair Rep. Susan Martin filed HB 1029/SB 810 Economic Development Changes & Study, which would create a workgroup of 11 individuals to review economic research and best practices in other states. Building on that research, the workgroup would recommend revisions to the state's current process for evaluating a community's level of economic distress. It would also identify new economic development strategies to further job-creation, as well as a plan for measuring the success of all economic development programs. The proposal directs that at least two of the appointments be held by persons with expertise in local government and follows months of examination of the issue by two interim legislative study committees. Contact: Erin Wynia

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Town Hall Day is June 8; Register Now!

Register now to attend Town Hall Day 2016. Scheduled for June 8, Town Hall Day is the premier opportunity for League members to visit legislators and make known their views on issues important to municipalities. It represents the best chance to show strength in numbers and draw attention to the many serious legislative issues facing cities and towns.

For those already planning to attend, now is the time to contact your legislators and make appointments to see them that day. Late morning is likely the best time to schedule those appointments.

Town Hall Day will include:

  • A legislative briefing from the League’s Public and Governmental Affairs Team
  • Meetings with House and Senate leadership
  • Discussions with representatives of state agencies
  • Opportunities to meet individually with legislators from your district, attend committee meetings and observe chamber floor sessions
  • An evening reception with legislators and key state leaders

Nothing can replace the positive impact of in-person conversation on legislators’ votes. More than 400 municipal officials had their say at last year’s Town Hall Day, which generated plenty of media coverage as well. Make sure you don’t miss this year’s opportunity. Click here to register.


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Lawmakers Continue Bill Filings Two Weeks Ahead of Final Deadline

Lawmakers continued filing bills this week, introducing 57 more in advance of a May 19 final deadline for local and pension bill filings. Another important deadline, for budget- and finance-related bills, comes Tuesday. The following are bills filed this week of municipal interest:

Click here to view last week's list of bill filings.


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U.S. Justice Department Says HB2 In Violation

The new state law known as House Bill 2 again led front pages this week as the U.S. Department of Justice determined the law's gender-related policy violates the federal Civil Rights Act. While a spokesman for Gov. Pat McCrory told news media that a response was being crafted, General Assembly leaders said they couldn’t honor the May 9 deadline that USDOJ subsequently gave the state to confirm whether and how it planned to “remedy” that issue. “Right now we’re talking with our attorneys to see what our options are,” said House Speaker Tim Moore on Thursday, as reported in the News & Observer. North Carolinians saw HB2 made public and signed into law on a single day in March that featured a special legislative session on the matter. Among HB2’s provisions is a requirement that individuals at public facilities, including schools, use only the restrooms aligned with their biological sex as defined on their birth certificate. That violates discrimination prohibitions in the Civil Rights Act, said USDOJ on Wednesday in letters to state officials including Gov. McCrory. According to news reports, that puts North Carolina at risk of losing millions or billions of federal dollars. The development quickly reached major news outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian. The Charlotte Observer on Friday reported that two other federal agencies that provide funding -- the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) -- were reviewing HB2. "HUD provides millions in grants each year to North Carolina and its cities," the newspaper reported. The law also prohibits local governments from regulating discrimination in places of public accommodation and affects the requirements they can place on contractors.

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State Budget Writers Agree on Figure

Budget writers in the House and Senate have agreed on a spending maximum for 2016-17. The $22.225 billion limit reported in news stories this week is a bit smaller than the amount that Gov. Pat McCrory proposed in April but marks a starting point for negotiations over how the state should allocate each dollar. In the 2015 legislative session, disagreement over spending limits and the quest for a compromise pushed budget work well beyond deadline, with the House and Senate merging plans that initially were entire percentage points apart from each other. The General Assembly’s new target -- in what is an adjustment to the budget passed last year -- is 2.26 percent higher than the current state budget total, compared to Gov. McCrory’s 2.8 percent recommendation. According to the News & Observer, the difference could impact whether legislators are able to meet the governor’s priorities for teacher and state-employee pay boosts. The newspaper reports that House budget subcommittees are meeting to go over the details and that Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican who is the chamber’s senior budget writer, says he hopes to deliver a proposal in the coming weeks.

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League-Member Utilities Honored for Performance

Fifty-six water systems, many of which are League members, have won state honors for surpassing federal and state drinking water standards, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality announced this week. The N.C. Area Wide Optimization Awards are part of an initiative to enhance how existing surface water treatment facilities perform, according to a press release on Wednesday that lists all 56 recipients. According to the release, a “Gold Star” honor went to operators that have received the award for at least 10 consecutive years -- Newton, Two Rivers Utilities in Gastonia, Lincolnton and Marion. Click here to see the full list of award winners.


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Apex Names New Manager

The Apex Town Council has named Drew Havens as town manager following his months of interim service in the role. Havens in a news release on Wednesday said he’s “honored and humbled” to help lead the town that Money magazine last year named as the best place to live in the U.S. “Under the direction of committed elected leaders, we will face the challenges ahead and continue to honor the history of Apex as we prepare for our future,” Havens said.

The town’s elected leaders said they’d planned to cast “a wide net” for top-rate candidates, but Havens’ interim performance won them over. “During the time that Drew was standing in the gap, he demonstrated the ideal combination of skills, experience, leadership and temperament that we’ve all been looking for,” said Mayor Lance Olive. According to the town, Havens has 15 years of municipal management experience, including a post in River Bend. He possesses a master’s degree in public administration and a credentialed-manager designation from the International City and County Managers Association. Read media coverage here.


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Infrastructure Week Set for May 16-23

Infrastructure Week – a nationwide initiative showing how infrastructure and supportive investments matter to our daily lives – is entering its fourth year, and organizers are hoping for unprecedented participation. Running from May 16-23, Infrastructure Week is stakeholder-driven and encourages governmental bodies to pass resolutions, plan events, host infrastructural field trips, prepare talking points, pen op-eds for news media, schedule radio interviews, spread word on social media (#infrastructurematters) and more to emphasize how infrastructure relates to economies, quality of life, health, safety, transportation and other essentials.

The National League of Cities has scheduled webinars for the event, according to an Infrastructure Week calendar viewable here. On May 16 from 11 a.m. to noon, NLC will host a press call online about the launch of a report on infrastructure funding. On the same day, from 1 to 3 p.m., NLC will co-host a webinar called “Opportunities in Expanding Access to Broadband for Local Leaders.” On May 19 from 2:30 to 4 p.m., NLC will co-host “Securing Our Water Future: 21st Century Solutions for 21st Century Cities.” Cities and towns can become Infrastructure Week affiliates, at no cost, by completing an online form here. In 2015, Infrastructure Week resulted in meetings with more than 300 members of Congress and staffers, countless connections with state legislators, more than 41 million impressions on social media and coverage from major outlets including 60 Minutes and The New York Times, according to a factsheet. Click here for a full rundown of Infrastructure Week and links to participation toolkits.


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Six NC Solar Farms Purchased

A Duke Energy subsidiary has purchased six solar farms in eastern North Carolina that together will have a capacity of 30 megawatts, or enough to power roughly 6,000 homes, the Charlotte Observer reports. Five of the farms are online already; the sixth is expected to be this month. They are located in Northampton, Edgecombe and Hertford counties, according to the newspaper. It added that Duke Energy has spent more than $4 billion on renewable energy and plans to spend another $3 billion in the next five years. Last week, we reported on a new initiative, SolSmart, launched in part by the National League of Cities to help local governments remove regulatory barriers to solar expansion and implement best practices to harness economic opportunity.

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Just For Fun?

Mixing levity with legislating, a bipartisan team of lawmakers this week filed a bill that would render the principal clerk of the House ineligible for retirement until “she” has completed “at least” 50 years in the role. The “she” in this case is Denise Weeks, who has served as House principal clerk since 1993 and who announced her impending retirement earlier this year to the consternation of the chamber’s elected officials who said they adored her and were terribly sad to see her go. Lawmakers at the time joked that they would propose a legislative block on her retirement so she couldn’t leave. On Monday, Reps. John Torbett, a Stanley Republican, and Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat, made good on that with a whimsical bill that quickly gathered co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. House Bill 1019’s language doesn’t explicitly name Weeks but includes language strikingly specific to her House career. The nine requirements listed for principal clerk retirement eligibility include work in the clerk’s office since 1977, when Weeks joined, and service as principal clerk since 1993, when Weeks assumed that role. The ninth requirement is at least 50 completed years in the latter post, meaning Weeks would have to put off her retirement for another 27 years. The bill, while clearly for smiles and appreciation, was referred to the House Rules Committee.