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League Following Latest 'Sanctuary Cities' Bill

A newer, farther-reaching legislative proposal has emerged to financially penalize so-called "sanctuary cities" in North Carolina. The League is closely monitoring SB 145 Government Immigration Compliance and will continue to be involved in conversations with legislators over concerns that the bill and others like it create, including its impact on important local revenue sources that are completely unrelated to any potential violations the bill seeks to address.

The bill, from Sen. Norman Sanderson of Arapahoe, lays out a process by which a local government may be stripped of state and local revenues -- such as Powell Bill funds or beer and wine tax revenues, among others -- if the state attorney general's office finds that a local government violated state laws related to local enforcement of federal immigration laws. Withholding these types of funds as an enforcement mechanism is unprecendented in North Carolina. To date, no one has presented any evidence publicly that any North Carolina municipality is failing to comply with the 2015 state law that prohibits sanctuary city practices.

The League last month reported on a separate, House proposal with a similar approach and basis. A related bill in 2016 passed the Senate but did not find approval in the House. As remains the case, no evidence was offered during last year's debate that any municipalities are violating the law.


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Governor's Budget Includes Menu of Local Government Items

Gov. Roy Cooper this week released his recommended budget for the 2017-19 biennium, including with it several items of local government interest and some that would satisfy League advocacy goals.

Among them:

  • New training for law enforcement officers to de-escalate violent situations and use best practices when working with individuals suffering from mental illness, the focus of a goal adopted by the League's Board of Directors.
  • $12.7 million to fight the opioid epidemic in a mental-health services context, with the additional annual funding of grants to help local law enforcement combat the spread. Opioid abuse, a leading cause of accidental death in North Carolina, is a concern closely followed by the League and by the National League of Cities more broadly. It's also the focus of companion bills in the House (HB 243) and Senate (SB 175).
  • $20 million for broadband infrastructure enhancement, with the majority of it focused on local government grants.
  • $40 million in film tax incentives with an additional $15 milllion in grants to encourage motion picture, television and commercial productions in North Carolina.
  • $13 million for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.
  • $6 million in initial funding for Raise the Age initiatives if the General Assembly enacts legislation to raise the age for juvenile jurisdiction.
  • More than $6 million for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
  • $5 million for the Main Street Solutions Program to offer reimbursable matching grants to local governments to assist with downtown revitalization efforts.
  • $5 million for building-reuse grants to rural communities for the renovation of vacant and underutilized buildings to encourage business development.

The full, 200-page draft is viewable here. The $23.4 billion total includes a variety of the governor's priorities, including raising teacher pay and classroom funding. According to the draft's highlights, no tax or fee increases are proposed, nor are service cuts.

Media outlets including the News & Observer report that Sen. Phil Berger has weighed in against the overall plan. "We believe a more prudent approach is investing generously in public education and other priorities while still saving for a rainy day and returning hard-earned tax dollars to our taxpayers," Senator Berger said. "The governor's proposal is a step backward from this successful approach that has led to a booming North Carolina economy and helped generate close to 500,000 new jobs."

The governor's recommended budget begins a monthslong process that will involve separate House and Senate budget plans that must be conformed into a single budget acceptable to a majority of the General Assembly. The legislature's approved version would then go to the governor, who may sign or veto the plan. The League looks forward to communicating with and serving as a resource to its state government partners to address priorities for member municipalities and North Carolinians as a whole.


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House Revs Up on League Transportation Goals

In a week that saw a heightened level of legislative activity generally, the House gave a boost to several League transportation advocacy goals. First, in a near-unanimous vote, the full House sent HB 81 STI/Regional & Division Weighting to the Senate for its consideration. The bill would increase local input in transportation project funding decisions, achieving a policy goal selected by League members this past October. Specifically, the proposal would alter the current 50-50 split between the preferences of local officials and state transportation engineers to a two-thirds/one-third breakdown, with the preferences of local officials weighing more. The proposed change in weight would affect input on both regional- and division-level projects evaluated in the State Transportation Improvement Process.

Next, Rep. John Torbett introduced a pair of bills that both aim to increase transportation project funding in the state, another top priority of League members. HB 219 Transportation Megaproject Funding would authorize a new fund for transportation projects “of statewide or regional significance” whose cost exceed $200 million. The fund would exist outside of the current State Transportation Investment Program and would receive separate funding. A workgroup comprised almost entirely of local officials, including a League designee, would decide which projects receive funding, based on criteria set out in the bill. And HB 220 State Infrastructure Bank Revisions would create a new legal structure into which the General Assembly may direct federal and state dollars, for the purpose of lending to local governments to finance transportation projects. The infrastructure bank would function as a revolving loan fund, with interest payments accruing and being re-loaned over time. The League thanks Rep. Torbett for his leadership in addressing this area of great importance for local officials. Contact: Erin Wynia


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Town Hall Day Attendees: Make Appointments With Your Legislators!

Sen. Joyce Krawiec (center) meets with her district's municipal officials during Town Hall Day 2016.

Can you believe it's nearly that time? Town Hall Day is just ahead on March 29! Your biggest to-do right now (other than register): Make appointments with your legislators. For those of you who haven't already made appointments, late morning (after 11 a.m.) is likely the best time to schedule them. Don't delay; do it today.

Nothing can replace the positive impact of in-person conversation on legislators' votes. Hundreds of municipal officials had their say at last year's Town Hall Day. Don't miss this year's opportunity. Click here to register.


A scene from Town Hall Day 2016

Click here for a video interview with League President and Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny about the importance and growth of Town Hall Day.


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Bookmark the League's Bill Tracker

For a quick way to follow bills that matter to local government, bookmark the League's bill tracker, your clear and easy tool to catch and monitor the progress of legislative proposals by topic or level of importance. Need an example? How about HB 252 Building Code Regulatory Reform. On the bill tracker, you'll find the proposal's sponsor, the committee considering it, the last action taken, and a League staff analysis of what the bill does. Hundreds of bills materialize in each session of the General Assembly, and the League has your back -- and encourages you to keep tabs -- with its local government bill tracker. Find it here or under the "Legislative Advocacy" menu at nclm.org.


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League Welcomes Jennifer Cohen

Beginning in May, the League will welcome Jennifer Cohen on a full-time basis in her role as new Director of Business and Membership Development. Jennifer, who has already begun working in that role on a part-time basis, comes to the League with extensive private-sector, state government and non-profit experience, having worked at organizations in the insurance, legal, financial and educational fields. In those roles, she has had general operations responsibility for a staff of up to 350 people and has been engaged in activities ranging from development and oversight of agency internal and external strategic initiatives, leading public policy initiatives, serving as executive director of and lobbyist for an insurance trade association, and assisting in developing the citizenship/leadership curriculum for grades 9-12.

With this variety of experiences, Jennifer will play a key role as the League continues efforts to enhance and evolve our strategic mission of membership support, engagement and development consistent with the League’s 5 Pillar Strategic Plan, and to help our member cities and towns better provide solutions and services to residents as part of Vision 2030. In her new position, she will oversee a shift in focus for the Business and Membership Development Services Department to primarily entrepreneurial activities  – ranging from sales, marketing, new product/service development, and corporate support initiatives across the entire League. Additionally, this department will drive our training and event planning activities.

The League staff is looking forward to working with Jennifer in this outward-facing role and knows she will be key in helping League members access more value-added services that help their communities and their residents. 


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League FCC Comments Stress Collaboration with Wireless Industry

League comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week stressed the numerous efforts underway as North Carolina cities and towns collaborate with the wireless industry. Written in response to a petition by wireless infrastructure provider Mobilitie and a broader, related FCC public notice, the League comments highlighted actions North Carolina that municipal officials have taken to educate themselves about and accommodate new small cell wireless technologies. We urge you to use this comment template from the National League of Cities to submit your own comments and inform the FCC of specific procedures your city uses to review and approve applications for small cell wireless facilities. Otherwise, with these actions before the commission, cities in this state and nationwide risk FCC preemption of their local zoning and permitting practices related to small cell deployment.

Still unsure of what small cell wireless technologies are, and wondering when your community will need to update its ordinances and practices for these technologies? Then plan to attend a FREE League-sponsored wireless technology forum later this month. We will present the forum in three locations across the state--Wilmington, Greensboro and Charlotte. Register now to attend the one closest to you and read on in this bulletin for more details. Contact: Erin Wynia


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Register Now for Wireless Technologies Forum

All over the country, municipalities big and small are taking steps to make their city operations smarter, faster and more efficient. Join local officials from across your region for a two-hour forum to learn about wireless technologies that can help achieve those aims. Brought to you by the League, you'll hear from industry and government experts on public safety initiatives such as FirstNet, good government practices such as the Internet of Things and smart cities, and next-generation wireless capabilities enabled by small-cell technologies. 

Building on information the League has already shared about these technologies through its Municipal Equation podcast episodes on smart cities and a digital mindset in local government, the forum will provide timely information about how all of these applications take advantage of your connected cities, counties, and regions. We are offering three different locations for this forum to make it more convenient for you to attend.

The forum will offer a free two-hour program followed by a reception with legislators from your area. Register now to attend one of the following events, which will begin at 10 a.m.

  • Wilmington, Friday, March 17, Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut St.
  • Greensboro, Monday, March 20, HQ Greensboro, 111 West Lewis St.
  • Charlotte, Monday, March 27, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 East 4th St., Room 267 (deck parking will be validated)

For registration questions, please contact events@nclm.org.


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New Top DEQ Officials Meet with League Members

League members and staff met with top environment officials from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) this week to meet new agency officials under Gov. Roy Cooper's administration and to discuss areas in which the agency regulates cities and towns. Technical experts from Charlotte, Durham, Morrisville, and Raleigh that serve on the League's Regulatory Action Committee (RAC) shared areas within DEQ that have the most impact on municipalities as regulated entities and areas in which local governments partner with the agency. The group stressed issues related to their roles as water, wastewater, and stormwater utility providers.

DEQ Deputy Secretary John Nicholson, Assistant Secretary for the Environment Sheila Holman, and General Counsel Bill Lane with League RAC members. Photo credit: Sarah Collins

The group also discussed the agency's timeline for the "periodic review of rules" process mandated by HB 74 Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, noting that re-adoption of the state's water quality rules had been put on hold after extensive stakeholder meetings in the spring of 2015. The League participated in the 2015 meetings because an overwhelming majority of these rules regulate municipalities. The agency officials explained that the proposed text of the 2B, 2H, 2T, and 2U rules will be available to stakeholders at least a month prior to the N.C. Environmental Management Commission's (EMC) review in May and that DEQ welcomes additional feedback. Those rules include many regulations affecting cities and towns, such as the rules governing wastewater discharges, buffers, reclaimed water, land application of biosolids, and various nutrient management strategies. In additional "periodic review of rules" efforts, DEQ held stakeholder meetings this week to discuss proposed changes for the re-adoption of the state's solid waste rules.

The League thanks Deputy Secretary John Nicholson, Assistant Secretary for the Environment Sheila Holman, and General Counsel Bill Lane for their interest in the issues and concerns of cities and looks forward to working with the department under the new administration. The League also looks forward to hearing from DEQ Secretary Michael Regan when he addresses our members at Town Hall Day.


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NLC Calls on President Trump to Talk with Local Officials

The National League of Cities has called on President Donald Trump to attend the organization's upcoming Congressional City Conference so he can meet with local officials and address city priorities. That event will include a strong presence from the North Carolina League of Municipalities. NLC's invitation to President Trump followed his address to a joint session of Congress this week. In a press release, NLC noted that the president "singled out great American cities, including Detroit, Baltimore and Chicago, to illustrate his views on public safety and economic opportunity." NLC CEO Clarence E. Anthony weighed in on the remarks: "President Trump stood before Congress and proclaimed that every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, attend a great school, and have access to a high-paying job. The nation's city leaders agree."

But Anthony also pointed to remaining uncertainty with several city-related issues. "That's why we urge President Trump to accept our invitation to directly address more than 2,000 city leaders and delegates attending NLC's Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., next month and explain in greater detail his vision for partnering with cities on locally-led initiatives to move America forward."

In other White House news this week, the Trump administration released an executive order to direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to begin a formal review of the Waters of the U.S. jurisdictional rule and to publish a proposed rule rescinding or revising it. In doing so, per the order, the agencies shall considering interpreting the term "navigable waters" in a manner consistent with the late Justice Antonin Scalia's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rapanos V. U.S., for which background is available here.


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Disaster-Related Housing Rehab Funds Available

The N.C. Housing Finance Agency is accepting applications for funding the rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes in counties affected by the disasters of 2016. The $15 million available comes via the Essential Single-Family Rehabilitation Loan Pool for disaster recovery, and local governments may be eligible applicants.

Application forms and guidelines are available here. According to the announcement, funds will be made available to serve homeowners in forty-nine counties: Anson, Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chatham, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Franklin, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Harnett, Hertford, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Martin, Montgomery, Moore, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Tyrrell, Wake, Washington, Wayne and Wilson. The agency may include assisting single-family (1-4 units) rental units later with this funding pool.
 
"Successful applicants will be awarded a set-aside of $150,000 for the rehabilitation of eligible units, with the option of receiving additional funds through the loan pool on a first-come, first-served basis," the agency said. Completed applications will be received on an ongoing basis until March 31.  For more information, call Mike Handley at (919) 877-5627, Chuck Dopler at (919) 981-5008, Donna Coleman at (919) 981-5006 or Dan McFarland at (919) 875-3753.


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Podcast: Police, Youths Open Up on 'The Other Side'

 

Click here for the latest episode of Municipal Equation, the League's biweekly podcast about the innovative things that cities and towns are doing. This time, we visit the Fuquay-Varina Police Department, which is trying to change perceptions between officers and youths -- via unscripted, uncoached, one-on-one conversations broadcast out to the world in a high-quality video web series.


Lt. Wayne Sorensen and eight-year-old Olivia talk about life during a taping of 'The Other Side.' Photo credit: Town of Fuquay-Varina 

Real moments, both candid and heavy, drive each episode of "The Other Side," which seeks to not only humanize police officers but also highlight how simply talking eye-to-eye at a relaxed pace can build trust, rapport and understanding in a world where distrust, fear and misconception can run wild. On this episode, we talk with Fuquay-Varina Police Chief Laura Fahnestock and Amazing Studios President Mike Cole about how the series came to be and how it's been received around town. (And stay tuned -- we'll have more info and photos from "The Other Side" in the next issue Southern City.)