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League Bulletin

February 10, 2017

The League thanks legislative leaders for filing city-supported legislation this week that is intended to provide increased broadband access across the state. HB 68 BRIGHT Futures Act, along with the companion SB 65, seeks to encourage the establishment of "BRIGHT" markets (the acronym for broadband, retail online services, the Internet of things, GridPower, healthcare, and training/education). Among other things, it would direct the state's Rural Economic Development Division to administer grants or loans to local governments for "digital infrastructure needed to support broadband, computing, and communications components." It would also amend the definition of public-private partnership projects for construction contracts to include digital infrastructure. Primary sponsors of the House bill are Reps. John Szoka of Fayetteville, Jason Saine of Lincolnton, Susan Martin of Wilson and Brenden Jones of Tabor City. Sen. Wesley Meredith of Fayetteville is the primary sponsor of the Senate version.

The legislation offers state leaders an opportunity to address a need of critical importance for cities and towns across North Carolina. Without high-speed broadband, large areas of the state will remain disadvantaged economically, educationally and in the area of health care. “The North Carolina League of Municipalities applauds the sponsors ... for restarting a crucial policy conversation about bringing high-speed broadband to all areas of the state and is hopeful that this statewide bill can help municipalities of all sizes achieve that goal," said League Executive Director Paul Meyer. "For North Carolina cities and towns, this issue was never about who owned what. It was about providing critical 21st century infrastructure to grow local economies, help businesses expand and bring jobs to their residents. NCLM looks forward to working with the bill sponsors in the coming weeks to bring about solutions that will help cities and towns of all sizes and all circumstances.” Since 2011, when legislation largely prohibited the expansion of city-owned broadband, local leaders and business owners have continued to raise the issue of a lack of reliable high-speed broadband in many areas of the state. Contact: Erin Wynia

A House transportation leader, Rep. John Torbett, introduced a bill on Thursday to increase local input in transportation project funding decisions. That proposal would achieve a policy goal selected by League members this past October. Please call House members in your hometown this afternoon to ask that they sign onto the bill as a co-sponsor. The deadline for legislators to make these requests is 5 p.m. today (Friday, Feb. 10). Specifically, the proposed bill 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. The League thanks Rep. Torbett for his leadership in addressing this area of concern for local officials. Contact: Erin Wynia

A proposal filed in the General Assembly this week would financially penalize local governments for failing to comply with a 2015 state law prohibiting so-called "sanctuary city" policies. As filed, HB 63 Citizens Protection Act of 2017 would allow the state to withhold certain revenues from local governments for violations. A similar bill affecting a different set of revenues last year passed the Senate but did not find approval in the House, but during debate of that bill, no evidence was ever offered of any city violating a provision of the 2015 law. The League continues to be unaware of any municipalities violating the law.

The revenues affected by HB 63 are from taxes on beer and wine, telecommunications, video programming and natural gas sales. The League believes that tying these dollars to a law of unrelated subject matter appears unprecedented and would penalize local taxpayers in ways that have nothing to do with the issue. According to the bill, the state's attorney general would be responsible for implementation and enforcement. The League looks forward to working with the current bill's sponsors and discussing the concerns of cities and towns. Click here for news coverage of the bill. Contact: Sarah Collins

A House bill filed on Wednesday seeks to move all municipal elections in North Carolina to even-numbered years by 2022, aligning them with state and federal contests. Click here to read HB 64, which details how the transition would happen and how it would impact elected officials' terms. A sponsor of the bill, Rep. Debra Conrad of Winston-Salem, told her local newspaper that the move would save on costs of running elections in odd-numbered years and increase voter participation. The League, however, believes that requiring all municipalities to shift their elections as such could have unintended consequences, and that it should be for the individual municipality to decide. Some towns have expressed concern with the statewide proposal.

A law that passed in the final moments of the 2016 General Assembly declared an intent to move all municipal elections to even years. That bill, SB 667, also called for a study of how the transition might occur, with recommendations due before the General Assembly convened this year. With a number of special sessions and other matters late last year impacting the usual interim period for such studies, it doesn't appear this one was carried out. The new bill was referred to the House Commitee on State and Local Government II. Contact: Sarah Collins

December's appellate court decision in Quality Built Homes v. Town of Carthage -- the impact-fees case -- has been appealed to the state Supreme Court. The town filed a petition for discretionary review last Friday. Bulletin readers will recall that in August 2016 the Supreme Court invalidated water and sewer impact fees for future expansion and let the Court of Appeals consider unresolved related issues like the statute of limitations, or how far back in time claims for refund could go. In December, the appeals court decided that the 10-year statute of limitations applies and that the town's estoppel defense, based on acceptance of benefits, does not. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will grant the petition and give careful review to the Court of Appeals’ decision. Details of the case can be viewed via this search portal. The docket number is 315PA15-2.

For cities and towns wondering what legislation the League is following in this biennium of the General Assembly, check out the League's online bill-tracker. Hundreds of bills will be filed this session, and with this tool you can see what we're actively monitoring, and what we're labeling as critical or of high importance. The League catalogs legislation by importance and subject matter. The tracker also lists each bill's sponsor and to what committee it's been referred. This important resource for municipalities is found here or under the "Legislative Advocacy" tab on the League's website,

We're closing in on Town Hall Day 2017! Each year at Town Hall Day, municipal officials join League staff for a great day of lobbying at the N.C. General Assembly in Raleigh. Town Hall Day, set for March 29, is the best way to discuss with state policymakers how your town is contributing to North Carolina's economy and serving the citizenry at home. Register today to make sure your community is represented.

Town Hall Day is the League's signature advocacy event. It balances informative advocacy training and sessions with networking opportunities to maximize your time in Raleigh. The morning is reserved for one-on-one meetings at the Legislative Building, where the state House and Senate craft laws, while the afternoon allows for flexibility -- additional meetings with legislators, observing of legislative sessions, forums with executive cabinet officials, and an evening reception. Don't miss this chance to share your town's success stories and establish meaningful relationships with your elected officials. Click here for a video recap of 2016's Town Hall Day, which hundreds of municipal officials attended. Click here to register now.

President Matheny and Executive Director Meyer in Washington, D.C. this week.

League President and Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny alongside League Executive Director Paul Meyer joined counterparts from across the country on Capitol Hill this week to advocate for municipal priorities and build meaningful federal partnerships. Focuses during meetings with congressional officials included infrastructure, marketplace fairness and municipal bonds.

Matheny and Meyer met with the staff of four U.S. senators, including North Carolina's Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr. "Paul and I had a really good trip and believe that NLC (the National League of Cities) did a great job of organizing our schedule," Matheny said.

Photo credit: NLC

According to NLC, more than 35 leaders from more than 20 state municipal leagues took part. "We’re proud that our state league partners have come to Washington with a unified voice and a simple message: that the federal government needs to partner with cities to keep our economy growing and to build a national infrastructure that is the envy of the world," said NLC President and Cleveland council member Matt Zone. The event received national press coverage as well, including this Route Fifty article.

The League, in partnership with the East Carolina University (ECU) Rural Community Consortium, invites you to attend the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Housing Basics Workshop on Feb. 23. The workshop is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in ECU's Willis Building, 300 E. 1st St., Greenville. Registration is FREE and lunch will be provided. On-site registration will start at 9:30 a.m.

This workshop will be of interest to municipal elected officials, city and town managers, clerks, finance officers and community development/planning directors from areas affected by Hurricane Matthew. It will feature instruction and practical application exercises related to:

  • Basics of the CDBG-DR funding program for Hurricane Matthew-impacted cities and towns.
  • Basic fiduciary responsibilities for municipal boards, regulations and important definitions.
  • Types of housing activities that are eligible under the program.
  • Important financial administration and compliance information related to housing program management that are needed to undertake successful CDBG-DR projects.

North Carolina has received $198 million in CDBG-DR funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The CDBG-DR funding is for assistance with long-term housing and housing-related impacts of Hurricane Matthew. This workshop will teach attendees the program management basics for successful projects funded by the grant. Click here for complete details and registration.

The League and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners are again partnering in meetings across the state to update local governments on what's ahead for their state disaster-recovery grant applications. The updates are from Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden LEAF Foundation. This is your opportunity to ask questions about the process and get prepared for next steps.

The state's Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 included a $200 million disaster-recovery package for communities affected by Hurricane Matthew, the recent western wildfires and tropical storms Hermine and Julia. The package allocated $25 million to the Golden LEAF Foundation, including $20 million to provide grants to local governments for infrastructure and $5 million for small business loans. It also allocated $10 million to the Department of Commerce for local government infrastructure grants and $10 million to the Department of Environmental Quality for infrastructure repair and cleanup.

Click here to see the meeting schedule and to register. We encourage you to share this invitation with fellow local government leaders.

The state Division of Water Infrastructure has announced its spring 2017 funding round and related application training. Funding offered this round will include a portion of the Connect NC bond program. All applications must be to the division by close-of-business on April 28. The agency will accept applications for Connect NC Bonds, the State Reserve Program, and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Application training sessions will be held at locations throughout the state in late February and early March. Click here for complete details.