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League Bulletin

January 9, 2015

State lawmakers officially begin a new legislative session on Wednesday, although that day will be almost exclusively about selecting chamber leaders and then organizing during a two-week break before the business of policymaking begins in earnest. Representative Tim Moore of Kings Mountain is expected to be elected House speaker after the House Republican caucus chose him as its nominee; Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger of Eden is expected to be selected for another term as that chamber's top leader.

Some key legislators and legislative insiders are predicting the pace and scale of legislation may not be as substantial as in the previous few years. The budget, transportation funding, economic development and Medicaid reform are likely to top lawmakers' to-do list. The League's Governmental Affairs team will be focused on advocating for replacement revenue for the business privilege license tax, the restoration of historic preservation tax credits (see below), competitive economic development tools, transportation funding that benefits the state and municipalities, and the many other Municipal Advocacy Goals approved by League members. The staff has already begun talking with legislators about those priorities. 

On the Senate side, there have been discussions about another round of tax reform and potential changes in local sales tax distributions. In a recent interview with Representative Moore for the upcoming edition of the League's Southern City magazine, the presumptive House Speaker questioned whether there is appetite in his chamber for another round of significant tax reform. He said tax changes should instead address any shortcomings related to economic development. Representative Moore also reiterated his support for historic preservation tax credits, saying that he is "really interested in making our downtowns vibrant." (Look for the full interview and learn more about Representative Moore in the next edition of Southern City.) 

As always, this legislative session will bring challenges for cities and towns. We look forward to working with all of you to achieve positive policy outcomes for municipalities. There is no substitute for your tireless advocacy on behalf cities and towns, and we will again be calling on you for strategic, targeted efforts aimed at successful legislative outcomes. On the publications side, this will be the last LINC'ed IN until the session is adjourned, hopefully in the summer. Look for the LeagueLINC Bulletin, which follows legislative action and other news of interest to municipalities when legislators are in session, to resume next week. Contact: Rose Williams

The League will host its second in a series of regional meetings examining the future of municipal finance on January 26 in Burlington. The series, A Path Forward: Vibrant Cities Today and Tomorrow, is examining the financial challenges facing municipalities big and small, including the $62 million fiscal cliff created by the pending loss of privilege license tax revenue. The meeting in Burlington follows one held in Southport in December that garnered significant media coverage in the southeastern part of the state.

Like that meeting, the Burlington event, to be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., will include a presentation by League staff looking at the history of municipal finance, comparative data with other states, and the legislative action that led up to the repeal of the business privilege license tax. A panel discussion will focus on the economic pressures faced by communities around the state and how a tax structure that promotes low property taxes has played a critical role in economic development. Panelists will include elected and appointed municipal officials from across the region. A reception will follow.

For members in municipalities in the upper Piedmont and Triangle, this meeting represents an opportunity to demonstrate your concerns about the financial pressures facing cities and towns to legislators and the broader public. We urge you to attend if at all possible. The meeting and reception are free of charge, but you can register and learn more details about the event here. Contact: Scott Mooneyham

Secretary of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz is embarking on a tour of cities and towns across North Carolina to push for reinstatement of historic preservation tax credits, and a coalition of groups that includes the League is supporting the effort. In December, League members approved as an advocacy goal the establishment of a competitive film incentive program and the maintaining of historic preservation tax credits. Efforts by the League, the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory and a host of other groups to keep the historic preservation tax credits fell just short when they were not included in a final budget deal last summer despite overwhelming support by the House.

Secretary Kluttz's stops on her tour next week include Gastonia, Eden and Mebane. Meanwhile, a website established to support the effort to restore the tax credit allows visitors to sign onto a petition drive, provides background, and lists links to news stories on the subject. The historic preservation tax credits were truly one of the closest issues decided in last year's legislative session, and League members' effort were critical in keeping the issue on the legislative front burner. Please support Secretary Kluttz in any way you can during her tour, visit the website, sign the petition and continue your strong advocacy efforts on this issue. You can contact Cary Cox at the Department of Cultural Resources to help facilitate events on Secretary Kluttz's tour. Contact: Whitney Christensen

On behalf of the entire League staff, the Governmental Affairs team would like to extend thanks and warmest regards to Cara Bridges. Cara will be leaving the League at the end of next week to take a position on the staff of the General Assembly's Fiscal Research Division. As Governmental Affairs Assistant, Cara has been a key cog in all of the work by the Governmental Affairs team and a great resource for municipal officials around the state. Although we will miss her at the League, we know that the wealth of experience and skills that she has will be a great benefit to the state. The silver lining for our team is that we will continue to see Cara around the Legislative Building. We wish her all the best in the future. Thank you, Cara!



Governmental Affairs Assistant Cara Bridges

Join the League and Duke Energy on Tuesday, January 13, in Greensboro for a collaborative summit to discuss issues surrounding municipal street lighting (forum details and registration here). In 2013, the League intervened in the Duke Energy Carolinas rate case before the North Carolina Utilities Commission. This led to continued discussions between municipalities and Duke Energy, with the objective of finding cost-effective options for municipalities to convert to LED street lighting and modernizing Duke Energy’s outdoor lighting offerings. At this summit, you will get insight into the League’s engagement with Duke Energy as well as information from the company on current rate structures, rate making principles, modernization efforts and future technologies. In addition, there will be a demonstration of Duke Energy's new outage reporting tool.
A three-judge panel has blocked a state law that would strip the Town of Boone of its extraterritorial jurisdiction powers. The panel granted Boone's request for a preliminary injunction to stop the law from taking effect while the town continues to try to overturn it. The court also rejected a motion from the state and Watauga County to dismiss the Town's lawsuit. The change had been scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1. Read media coverage of the ruling here, and the court order here.
With the legislative session days away, Governor Pat McCrory is again loudly calling on state legislators to fund incentive programs designed to bring jobs and new businesses to the state. Governor McCrory told those attending the 2015 Economic Forecast Forum sponsored by the NC Bankers Association and NC Chamber that legislators need to act quickly or the state could lose companies considering bringing jobs here. He urged legislators to make funding job-creation grants their No. 1 priority upon their return to Raleigh. Read more about the governor's comments here and here.
Rep. Paul Tine has decided to leave the Democratic Party and register as unaffiliated, a move expected to allow him to be included within House Republican Caucus meetings and enjoy more influence in the chamber. Representative Tine of Kitty Hawk explained the move by saying that it will allow him to more effectively represent his constituents and that his centrist views were not necessarily reflected by either political party. The move should effectively expand the GOP's advantage over Democrats in the House to 75-45. Read media coverage about his change here.