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Speaking Out: Another Legislative Session is Upon Us 

by NCLM President and Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny

Back in October, when League members gathered to consider the Municipal Advocacy Goals for the next legislative biennium, over 200 municipal officials raised their voting cards to finalize those priorities. It was an important day, and that wide participation was crucial, making a statement that these are the goals of a diverse set of cities and towns from all across North Carolina.

As important as it was, though, now is when the rubber meets the road. The North Carolina General Assembly is back in session, and the real work to try to achieve those goals begins.

Just like with every legislative session, how this current one plays out is not easy to predict. And where the League ends up in terms of reaching the goals that were finalized back in October is just as difficult to forecast.

However, there are some things, here in February, that we can reasonably expect to happen by mid-summer or before.

We can expect that, once again, there will be discussions around helping struggling rural communities and that some of that discussion will revolve around changes to how sales taxes are distributed. As the League has before, we need to continue to emphasize solutions that help all North Carolina, and not ones that mean determining winners and losers among us. We have to continue to promote an understanding that large numbers of North Carolinians live and work in regional economies that are not determined by municipal, county or even state borders.

What we also should do, as a part of any of those discussions, is emphasize League goals that involve the fiscal health of cities and towns – including a goal that our diverse municipalities need diverse and locally-controlled revenue options and another goal that would allow changes to the uses of room occupancy taxes.

Something else that we can reasonably expect from this legislative session are proposals that will require us to play defense and beat back ideas that would preempt local authority. One of those will almost assuredly be another bill to restrict municipalities when it comes to setting local billboard regulations. Those regulations are critical in order that towns and cities set their own course for how their communities will look based on the particular desires of their residents and the needs of their local economies. Obviously, a small mountain town with a tourism-based economy does not and should not have the same vision for itself as a larger Piedmont city.

Something else we surely know: A lot of what we accomplish as an organization – whether it involves achieving our actual legislative goals or pushing back against proposals that would undermine local authority – will be determined by our efforts.

As I said back in October upon assuming this position, it is your commitment that will define the League’s efforts and successes.

So, be involved in the League’s advocacy efforts, whether that means calling a legislator, sending one a letter, or attending a League Lobby Day. For my fellow mayors out there, become involved in the League’s mayor discussions and meetings. And finally, let your fellow municipal officials know the importance of League efforts to achieving not just the collective goals of cities and towns, but their individual goals of having healthy, happy, thriving communities.