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League Bulletin

February 20, 2015

The ice and snow this week cooled off the action at the General Assembly, leading to canceled committee meetings and  abbreviated floor sessions in the House and Senate. The primary action on the chamber floors occurred in the Senate, which approved an unemployment insurance-related bill. The conditions slowed down bill filing as well, with 20 filed in the Senate and seven in the House. At least one legislator had fun with travel troubles. Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte, who made it to the Legislative Building on Tuesday when many did not, staged a mock coup on Twitter and Facebook that became a one-day viral sensation, joking about passing bills that his fellow Democrats want and the Republican majority does not. 

The winter weather got in the way of House consideration of a Senate-approved measure intended to stabilize transportation revenue, but House leaders indicated this week that they will try to quickly move the bill while making some changes. SB 20 IRC Update/Motor Fuel Tax Changes, backed by the League, was approved in a 35-15 vote by the Senate last week. The bill offers an immediate 2.5 cents cut to the gas tax, but would establish a tax floor starting in 2016 so that the road building and maintenance dollars that it generates do not continue falling with the price of gas.

Several key House members indicated that they support the idea, but may want to amend the legislation to include a tax ceiling so that it does not rise above a set rate. House members also say they hope the bill will open the way for consideration of House legislation for a longer-term plan for road and transportation infrastructure. The League continues to urge you to contact your legislators and ask them to support this bill, which is critical for a more stable funding source for transportation, including Powell Bill dollars that go to municipalities. 

If the gas tax remains unchanged, it is expected to fall by as much as 6 to 8 cents per gallon, as it is pegged to wholesale fuel prices. This will lead to an overall drop in transportation dollars of $300 to $400 million, with a significant decrease in Powell Bill money, which was $147 million last year. Read previous League coverage about the bill and our statements in support of the legislation here. Read media coverage here. Contact: Rose Williams

House leaders indicated this week that they are working on a bill that will restore money to a favored job recruiting incentives program, the Job Development Investment Grant. The move comes as Gov. Pat McCrory has been urging lawmakers to put money into depleted state incentive programs designed to lure new businesses and jobs to the state. House leaders say their plan will contain more money for the JDIG grants, but also authorize "crowdfunding," the raising of capital through small, individual investments, and change how corporate incomes taxes are calculated for some companies. League members approved a legislative goal calling for support of "funding for state-level incentive programs necessary to keep North Carolina competitive in its efforts to bring additional jobs and economic development to local communities." Read media coverage about the House leaders' plans here.

A troublesome reporting deadline facing municipalities that own high- and intermediate-risk dams may be moved. In the House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday, Rep. Chuck McGrady offered an amendment to SB 14 Acad. Standards/Rules Review/Coal Ash/Funds to extend the deadline for owners of non-coal-ash, high- and intermediate-risk dams to submit required emergency action plans (EAPs). The amendment was approved by the committee and would extend the deadline from March 1 to December 31. The Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 changed the format in which EAPs are submitted and the extension would relieve many municipalities whose water supply dams require the plans. The League thanks Representative McGrady for this helpful extension. SB 14 is scheduled to be heard by the full House on Tuesday. Contact: Sarah Collins

The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled this week that the state Department of Transportation must compensate property owners in Forsyth County whose land faced development restrictions for years after the DOT identified it as being in a road corridor plan. The ruling that potentially upends the Map Act could have implications for municipalities, although delays once corridor plans are established and associated problems for private property owners have been linked mostly to state road-building. Besides the ruling in Forsyth County, a similar lawsuit in Wake County is pending. Read more about the ruling here and see the court decision here.
Greg Gaskins, the former chief financial officer for the City of Charlotte, will replace Vance Holloman as Deputy State Treasurer for State and Local Government Finance Division. Gaskins was appointed by State Treasurer Janet Cowell and began in the post this week. Holloman, who had held the position since 2006, retired from state government in January and was named finance director for the Town of Apex. The League congratulates and wishes both well in their new roles. Read more in this news release from Treasurer Cowell's office.

A third piece of legislation calling for an independent redistricting process was filed this week at the General Assembly, and 63 House members have signed onto the bill. HB 92 Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission would put the job of drawing legislative and congressional maps in the hands of a five-member commission and the Legislative Services Office. The General Assembly, which now has the job, would vote the maps up or down. The bill also sets up a tight criteria for how the districts would be formed, including a requirement that county and city boundaries be considered. 

League members, in December, approved a legislative advocacy goal calling for a nonpartisan means of creating legislative and congressional districts, and Morrisville Mayor Pro Tem Liz Johnson, a NCLM board member, joined a group of bipartisan legislators at a news conference earlier this month to tout this legislative proposal and others calling for an independent redistricting process. HB 49/SB 28 Independent Redistricting Commission were filed earlier this month. Read previous League coverage about the issue here. Contact: Scott Mooneyham

Gov. Pat McCrory has tapped Murphy Councilwoman Barbara Vicknair to serve on the Cherokee Preservation Foundation Board of Directors. The foundation is responsible for protecting the natural resources on Cherokee tribal lands that face degradation as a result of traffic and growth associated with gaming activities. It also assists in economic development. The League extends its congratulations to Councilwoman Vicknair on the appointment.

Lt. Governor Dan Forest and his Democratic opponent in 2012, former state Rep. Linda Coleman, both said this week that they will seek the office again in 2016. Lt. Governor Forest won the race by 6,858 votes out of more than 4.3 million cast. Meanwhile, state Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary indicated that she is mulling a run for higher office. Read more about the election jockeying here and here.