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Legislation to Provide Development Infrastructure Flexibility Resurfaces

Bills to provide special financing mechanisms for building infrastructure appeared in both legislative chambers this week. HB 158 Assessments/Critical Infrastructure (SB 118) included League-suggested language and would extend existing assessment authorities to allow cities and counties to fund infrastructure projects for private development. Existing authority allows local governments, at the request of property owners, to levy a "special assessment" on property owners who request the installation of infrastructure such as roads and water or sewer lines. The proceeds from that assessment are used to pay back revenue bonds that the local government issues to finance the installation of the infrastructure.

The language of the proposed bills is identical to provisions that passed the House last year and would allow developers who enter into an agreement with the county or city to pay for the infrastructure installation themselves. The local government would then use the special assessment to reimburse the developer for its investment. The League suggested language to ensure that the action is voluntary and that a local government would only owe the developer the revenue that the assessment produces, less any administrative costs. HB 158 received a favorable hearing in the House Finance Committee this week. Contact: Sarah Collins


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Proposal Alters Half-Cent Sales Tax Adjustment Factors

Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown -- who was a key proponent last session of a plan to reallocate locally levied sales taxes -- filed legislation this week to change the adjustment factors applied to the half-cent local Article 40 sales tax levy. This year's proposal, SB 126 Change the LOST Adjustment Factor, would eliminate all current adjustment factors for this particular tax, replacing them with a factor based on the county's economic tier designation. Counties with a Tier 1 designation would receive a boost in tax receipts, with their collected amount being multiplied by a factor of 1.1. Counties designated as Tier 2 would receive no adjustments, while counties designated as Tier 3 would see reduced receipts due to being assigned a factor of 0.9. Whether this proposal would increase or reduce a county's current tax receipts depends on the difference between the adjustment factors in law now versus the newly proposed factors. Counties and those municipalities in them which rely on tourism would be most adversely affected. To see where your municipality falls, please refer to this chart prepared by the legislature's non-partisan fiscal staff. Contact: Chris Nida


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VIDEO: President Matheny Discusses Importance of Town Hall Day


Click the image to watch

What's Town Hall Day all about for municipal officials? Well, when you consider that Zebulon Mayor and 2017 League President Bob Matheny has served in local office for decades, with extensive Town Hall Day involvement, he's probably a good source to ask. So we did. Watch this video of President Matheny discussing the importance of Town Hall Day, the League's signature advocacy event set for March 29 this year. Hear how he's seen it grow over the years, and why it truly matters for municipalities to attend. "This year, again, we expect it to be the largest year we've ever had," President Matheny said. And that's important, he noted, because it makes a statement about how varied and vast North Carolina's municipal presence is. That's ahead on Town Hall Day, March 29. You've registered, right? If not, there's still time. Click here for the details.


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League's Policy Committees Discuss Local Issues with Lawmakers


House Majority Leader John Bell talks with League policy committee members. Photo credits: Ben Brown

Members of the League's respective Legislative and Regulatory Action Committees (LAC/RAC) joined with General Assembly lawmakers in Raleigh this week to discuss teamwork between local and state government in vital areas like broadband, hard infrastructure and revenue sustainability. LAC/RAC members on Wednesday -- in a series of year round "lobby days" that connect individual municipalities with their legislators -- visited with officials in both chambers including House Majority Leader John Bell of Goldsboro and Senate Majority Whip Jerry Tillman of Archdale.


Senate Majority Whip Jerry Tillman greets League committee members.

They also met with Sens. Jim Davis of Franklin and Tom McInnis of Rockingham, along with Lewis King, policy advisor to House Speaker Tim Moore. Over the course of the day, the LAC/RAC team communicated municipalities' need for support with infrastructure as North Carolina grows and existing resources decay; broadband availability as public and private services increasingly shift toward online platforms; and revenue flexibility to respond to and support the economy. The League would like to thank lawmakers for their time and attention and looks forward to continuing the dialogue.


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House Sees First Billboards Measure

The first billboards bill of the session made its debut in the House this week. HB 173 Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws, sponsored by House Majority Leader John Bell, would reduce a city's ability to influence the location of billboards by prohibiting most zoning authority as it relates to these signs. Under the measure, a billboard owner may relocate most existing signs anywhere within a jurisdiction that has a zoning classification comparable to the zoning of the original sign location. The proposal also would place first-ever factors into state law for determining the amount of compensation paid to billboard owners for acquiring, purchasing, or condemning signs. Finally, the measure includes other changes related to vegetation removal and re-planting of trees near billboards. To pass the House, the bill must receive favorable reports from three committees, plus the majority of the full chamber. Contact: Erin Wynia

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'First Responders Act' Supports League Goal

A House bill filed this week contains provisions in the spirit of a League advocacy goal to reduce strain on law enforcement officers. A section of HB 181 First Responders Act of 2017 would allow company police or security on site at hospitals to take custody of persons believed to be mentally ill and potentially harmful, until official transportation and placement is arranged. That's a change from the current practice, in which law enforcement officers are the ones taking custody, and are called to hospitals for that purpose. The League's board in October 2016 adopted a goal to support legislation that bolsters the state's mental health and intellectual/developmental disabilities treatment resources, including resources and solutions to lessen the strain on sworn law enforcement officers when providing custody of individuals in crisis. The League appreciates the attention given to this issue by bill sponsors Reps. Harry Warren, Mike Clampitt, Carl Ford and Larry Potts.


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Another Reason to Join 'Here We Grow'


Online at herewegrownc.org

Haven’t uploaded your story of economic success on Here We Grow yet? You might be missing out in more ways than one. Starting with the March/April edition of Southern City magazine, the League will be sharing one of those local stories from the website as a regularly-featured story in the magazine. As of this writing, more than 30 cities and towns have shared their stories. Which one will be the featured story in Southern City? We haven’t decided yet, but will next week. So, you still might have time to beat the deadline for the upcoming edition.

If you haven't signed up yet, it’s easy. Simply email about@herewegrownc.org, and if you're a League-member municipality, we'll set you up. Has your city or town made or facilitated investments to attract new businesses, encourage retail expansion or create good-paying local jobs? Have you invested in amenities that make your municipality a great place to live, attracting new residents, businesses or both? Tell us that story. We'll make sure it's featured in our ongoing promotional campaign. Check out one of the latest stories, this one from the Town of Maiden, here.


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National Report Highlights League's Voice in Preemption Dialogue

A new report from the National League of Cities on state preemption of local authority highlights positive work on part of the North Carolina League of Municipalities in the conversation. The League is named in the report's recommendation to address the preemption narrative. "The rise of preemptive legislation suggests that state governments are concerned about increased local autonomy and the patchwork of regulations that may exist within the state," the report says. "As a result, a pro-preemption narrative is emerging in an attempt to put cities in their place. State leagues can take an active role in combating this narrative. For example, the North Carolina League of Municipalities is reshaping the narrative away from 'cities are out of control' to 'cities help the state.' The League takes the approach of avoiding politics in favor of an economic argument. They frame preemption as obstructing cities from being the best drivers of development that they can be." Click here to read the full, downloadable report.


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Easy Way to Follow Bills that Matter to Municipalities

Bills are being filed and updated all the time at this point in the state's legislative calendar, and you can rely on the League to follow those that matter to cities and towns. But we want you to have the tools, too. The League's bill tracker makes it easy. Get explainers and status updates on proposals like SB 131 Regulatory Reform Act, which among other things would allow public agencies such as municipalities to exclusively fulfill public records responsibilities by making public records or computer databases available online in a downloadable format. Or perhaps you'd like to see what's happening with SB 123 Release of LEO Recordings, which would add two additional purposes to the list of circumstances under which a law enforcement agency must disclose or release a recording, such as a body camera or dashboard camera recording, to a district attorney. The bill tracker is clean, easy and categorizes proposals by level of importance or by topic. Check it out.