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Advocacy Angle: Another legislative session begins 

by Scott Mooneyham, NCLM Advocacy Communications Strategist

With another legislative session underway, state lawmakers have a lot on their plate. As in many years, putting together a state budget will be one of the heaviest lifts, and, if previous years are any indication, the budget document will include many policy matters of interest to municipalities. Besides the budget, legislators will likely spend a good deal of time considering transportation funding, with the possibility of a $1 billion bond issue being put before voters, and changes to the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor.

Those issues, in and of themselves, are pretty weighty matters. But when you consider the volume, gravity and pace of legislation that has been before the General Assembly in recent years, 2015 might not look a great deal like the sessions earlier this decade. Some key legislators and legislative insiders are predicting that to be the case. Instead of multiple pieces of major legislation flying around both the House and Senate chambers at any point in time, this session may be a bit more settled with the focus on a few major issues and lots of tweaks and slight adjustments to state policy.

That assessment does not necessarily jibe with talk from leaders in the state Senate, who have been discussing another round of tax reform and potential changes to how the state distributes the local share of sales tax revenue back to local government. Over on the House side of the Legislative Building, there are legitimate questions about how much appetite exists for another round of structural tax changes. However there is an appetite for is ensuring that North Carolina is competitive with other states when it comes to industrial and job recruitment, and so another extensive debate is likely to occur around inducements to bring new business to North Carolina.

It is difficult to say what those predictions, if accurate, mean for North Carolina cities and towns. We come into the session with legislative leaders having said they are committed to helping municipalities address a top concern – finding replacement revenue for the pending loss of business privilege license tax revenue. Whether those efforts involve stand-alone legislation or become part of a larger effort to make further tax changes remains to be seen.

The League is a part of a broad coalition (see that seeks to restore the historic preservation tax credit, addressing another Municipal Advocacy Goal adopted by League members in December. We are optimistic that legislators in both chambers are hearing the message that the tax credits have been instrumental in creating jobs, spurring economic development in municipalities big and small, and preserving history.

Legislators will also have the opportunity to address League member priorities regarding economic development and infrastructure funding as they take up economic development and transportation related legislation. We can and should be hopeful on those fronts.

But any legislative session will bring challenges. More regulatory reform proposals, both beneficial and harmful to municipal interests, are likely on the horizon. Proposals that undermine municipal authority are always possible.

The League staff is working on behalf of cities, towns and villages to bring about positive results during the 2015 legislative sessions. As always, though, there is no substitute for the hard work of municipal officials throughout the state, and your ability to talk to your local legislative delegation and let them know about the effects of legislation in your community. We appreciate that work and are always cognizant of its importance.