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League Bulletin

Your weekly Bulletin of governmental and advocacy news for North Carolina cities and towns has arrived, and here's what you'll find this week: the General Assembly returns for a brief session; a legislative committee discusses local economic tiers;  the Census Bureau schedules workshops of interest to local governments​; congressional districts get another shakeup; a Jacksonville city leader joins a national committee; ​​and our podcast checks out the "sharing economy." But first, a quick explanation for why the B​ulletin looks so different this week. Read on for more. 

Welcome to a new look and feel to your weekly bulletin of governmental and advocacy news from the League -- the League Bulletin, as we're calling it from here on out. But more important is why: it coincides with a totally revamped League website, launched this week at nclm.org, rebuilt from the ground up for a entirely new, better user experience. We're excited for you to explore the new nclm.org, where you can find back issues of the weekly Bulletin along with a rich but clear array of other League content, services, event listings, opportunities and more with a friendly, easy-to-navigate design and flow. You may expect additional tweaks and alterations to this newsletter as we continue to adjust and improve our user experiences, but with a continued core focus on the news and updates of importance to cities and towns that you expect week to week. Contact: Ben Brown

The full General Assembly returned to Raleigh this week for another brief session, though with little on the agenda of direct significance for cities and towns as of the time of this writing. However, the City of Burlington and its leaders received recognition in both the House and Senate for the city's 125th year of incorporation, with remarks led by Sen. Rick Gunn​ and Rep. Stephen Ross, who represent the city in the General Assembly. Burlington Mayor Ian Baltutis, City Manager Hardin Watkins, Clerk Renee Ward and Public Information Officer Rachel Kelly were in the chambers' galleries to receive the honor. 

As for regular business, the standout conversations among lawmakers fell on topics like judicial redistricting and water contamination, the latter stemming from the GenX controversy that has impacted communities in the state's southeast. Republican lawmakers have been exploring changes to how judges are put in office, though the legislative chambers reportedly have differing ideas ​to that end. Meanwhile, media outlets in Wilmington are reporting other differences​ between chambers over a proposed bill to fund equipment and staff to address emerging water contaminants. These and other talks played out in various legislative committees, where the substantial​ bill vetting and shaping takes place, including the Joint Legislative Economic Development and Global Engagement, or EDGE, Committee, which on Thursday began renewed scrutiny of the state's local economic tier system. (More below.)  

Legislators are putting the state’s economic development tier system under a microscope again, having kicked off a series of interim meetings on Thursday with a discussion of how to measure economic distress. In a series of presentations to the Joint Legislative Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight Committee (EDGE), non-partisan legislative staffers offered an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the current tier system. At the conclusion, committee co-chair Sen. Harry Brown strongly indicated his desire for the EDGE Committee to propose reforms to the system, stating that a lot had changed in North Carolina since the system went into place 30 years ago. In those remarks, Senator Brown acknowledged the difficulties in changing a long-entrenched formula. 

In their analysis of the current formula for measuring economic distress, staff members first encouraged legislators to formulate a clear policy goal for how to use the formula. Then, the staffers said, legislators could choose the best indicators of economic distress for use in achieving the policy goals. Currently, more than a dozen state programs utilize the tier system rankings as a proxy for economic distress, including grant funding programs designed to alleviate that distress. Of importance to cities, the staff presentation broke down the current tier system formula into measures of the economic distress of residents -- such as median household income and the unemployment rate -- versus measures of a local government’s capacity to respond to distress by itself, such as its property valuation and tax capacity. As they examine the issue, legislators will likely look at changing how much weight the formula gives to a local government’s tax capacity. 

The League's membership supports a revision of the tier system to focus the measurements more closely on the causes of economic distress. View and listen to the staff presentation on this topic on the EDGE Committee’s website. The site also contains other materials and information received by the EDGE Committee on Thursday, including a staff analysis of all the state-level economic incentive awards made since 2013. The EDGE Committee will continue to meet monthly leading up to the General Assembly's short-session in May, and the committee may recommend legislation for the chambers to consider during that session. Contact: Erin Wynia
 
With the 2018 candidate filing period just ahead, federal judges this week told the General Assembly that the congressional districts it adopted in 2016 are unconstitutional and need to be redrawn​. The three-judge panel gave lawmakers until Jan. 29 to revise the 13-district map, seeing the current layout as unconstitutional and created for partisan advantage, which became the subject of lawsuits after the legislature adopted the districts in a special session in 2016. "It throws a new wrinkle and more uncertainty into the 2018 election cycle in North Carolina a month before candidates were scheduled to file for office," writes the News & Observer. The Associated Press reports​ that the court could also appoint a special master to draw new maps independently. The 2018 candidate filing period is scheduled to start on Feb. 12. ​According to media outlets, the state's Republican leaders will fight the ruling and seek a delay to the deadline.

It's a new year for Municipal Equation, the League's podcast about cities and towns adapting in the face of change. And our first episode of 2018 begins with a question straight from New Year's Eve, after your midnight champagne -- did you take an Uber or a Lyft home? Did you wonder, on your way back, what that ride meant for city policy? Probably not as such, sure, but you've likely heard or been a part of the conversation about cities regulating the elements of the sharing economy, like ridesharing (Uber; Lyft) or homesharing (Airbnb; VRBO). That's just one corner of the conversation, though. The sharing economy is expansive and is moving or upending so many parts of the marketplace that it's impossible for cities and their governments not to consider the ramifications. On this episode, we talk with Brooks Rainwater of the National League of Cities to go over where city governments are with the sharing economy and actions they're taking to come to terms, and even leverage it. Municipal Equation comes out every other week and is available via free subscription on iTunes, Google Play, or any podcast-listening app. If you've enjoyed the podcast, please consider leaving a friendly written review on iTunes or simply tapping the five-star rating. Visit nclm.org/municipalequation for past episodes. Contact: Ben Brown​

The Census Bureau is conducting Boundary and Annexation Survey workshops in three locations across North Carolina next month: Wilmington, Feb. 12; Durham, Feb. 13; and Charlotte, Feb. 14. The workshops will provide an overview of the 2020 Census Geographic Partnership Programs, the 2018 BAS, and demonstrations for creating a digital and paper response for completing the BAS. To register please RSVP by emailing your name, phone number, workshop location and BAS participation method type to geo.bas@census.gov ​with a generic subject of: RSVP to [Insert City, State] BAS Workshop, by Feb 5.

Jacksonville City Council Member Angelia J. Washington has joined the National League of Cities' Council for Race, Equity and Leadership, according to a press release from the city. The appointment was made at NLC's CitySummit this past November, and it follows her previous service on the organizatoin's Human Development Committee, most recently as vice-chair. The new appointment "allows me to collaborate with municipal leaders across America in garnering support from Congress in establishing the 13th Amendment as a national holiday," Council Member Washington said, that amendment having abolished slavery. "Advocacy for our nation’s citizens further supports action by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to address violence among young African American males, improving educational outcomes for disadvantage students, and ending homelessness for civilians, veterans, and immigrants."

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