Gov. Pat McCrory made news; legislative leaders pleaded their case; municipal officials -- better than 400 of them -- had their say. Town Hall Day 2015 was a big success, with League members from across the state making their presence felt at the Legislative Building in a variety of ways. The day generated big headlines as Governor McCrory, during an afternoon panel discussion, spoke about elected officials from the different levels of government staying out of each other's business and "in their own lanes," while also using the occasion to pan a Senate economic incentives plan.
Governor McCrory was joined on the panel by Secretary of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz and Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata, with League Executive Director Paul Meyer moderating. Governor McCrory was particular critical of the idea that rural North Carolina is in competition with urban North Carolina. Instead, he said employers looking to build or expand are looking at like markets in different states, meaning that Raleigh is competing against Nashville Tenn., and Hickory against Macon, Ga. Secretary Kluttz discussed the importance of historic preservation tax credits to both the economy of small towns and big cities, and to the preservation of state history. Secretary Tata noted how the draft State Transportation Improvement Plan would translate into more transportation projects than in the past and therefore more jobs.
(From left) Secretary of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz, Gov. Pat McCrory, and Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata speak to League members during a Town Hall Day panel discussion
At an earlier session held in the Legislative Building Auditorium, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger met with League members, discussing the pending repeal of the privilege license tax and potential replacement revenue, historic preservation tax credits and the League's work on gas tax legislation. Speaker Moore said he believed that legislators would focus on the privilege license tax question as a part of larger tax and budget issues once agreements had been reached on gas tax and jobs recruiting incentives legislation. Senate leader Berger discussed the potential for a grant program to replace the historic preservation tax credit.
Throughout the day, representatives from cities and towns from across the state worked the Legislative Building halls and met with legislators from their districts to present municipal concerns. With agricultural interests also holding a big lobby day, the League teamed with North Carolina Farm Bureau to present a letter to legislators continuing the call for near-term and longer-term solutions to the state's transportation funding gap. That letter, signed by League President Ronnie Wall and Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, pointed out that funding transportation infrastructure is "key to economic competitiveness."
League members in the legislative gallery are recognized by the Senate
The day's events generated lots of media attention, with League members featured in many of those news reports. Read or see just a sampling of that coverage here, here, here and here.
We'd like to thank Governor McCrory, Secretary Kluttz and Secretary Tata for joining League members to discuss issues that are so important to cities, towns and the state as a whole. Speaker Moore and Senate leader Berger also deserve big thanks for taking time out of a busy legislative schedule to meet with League members. Most of all, thank you to all of you who attended. It is your work, advocacy and dialogue with your state legislators that is paramount to keeping cities and towns vital and healthy. Contact: Rose Williams
Legislators took up a number of pieces of legislation affecting municipalities this week, with the prospects for most remaining in question. HB 201 Zoning Changes/Citizen Input, which would repeal the protest petition process which residents can use to challenge proposed municipal and county zoning changes, cleared the House Committee on Local Government and now heads to the House floor. The committee's approval was controversial after a proposed amendment to keep but modify the protest petition process appeared to have strong support, but by a voice vote -- with no show of hands or roll call -- was ruled to have failed. League Governmental Affairs Director Rose Vaughn Williams spoke to the committee, noting League support for a middle ground that would increase the threshold of adjoining property owners needed for a protest petition and lower the supermajority for council votes when a valid petition is presented.
HB 131 Town of Maggie Valley/Deannexation also was approved by the House Committee on Local Government, despite town officials who spoke against the measure. That legislation will next be considered by the House Finance Committee. The League opposes the measure, which would de-annex a neighborhood that several property owners moved into after it was already annexed into the town, and will continue to work with town officials to advocate against its passage.
HB 108 Site and Building Development Fund would establish a fund to provide loans to municipal and county governments to build or renovate buildings and provide infrastructure for commercial development sites. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Stam of Apex, cleared the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development. Another measure sponsored by Representative Stam, HB 127 DOT Condemnation Changes, was taken up by the House Judiciary IV Committee. It would change quick-take condemnation procedures for the Department of Transportation and local governments, potentially delaying projects and increasing legal fees associated with road building and other infrastructure projects. The League's Erin Wynia spoke to committee members about municipalities' concerns regarding the legislation, and Representative Stam appeared receptive to considering those concerns.
HB 128 Referendum on Certain Local Debt was calendared by the House Committee on Local Government but withdrawn after discussions between League staff and the bill's sponsor, Rep. Michael Speciale of New Bern. Other bills filed this week include HB 318 Protect North Carolina Workers Act, which would repeal the E-Verify concessions that local governments won during the last legislative session; HB 304/SB 320 Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws, which would establish new restrictions on local government ordinances related to billboard advertising; SB 338 Economic Development/Tax Modifications, the Senate leadership's tax and jobs recruiting plan; and SB 336 Increase JDIG Program Funding, a less ambitious jobs recruiting proposal that would boost funding for the state's primary industrial recruiting incentives program.
Next week's LeagueLINC Bulletin will revisit many of these pieces of legislation, with individual looks at several and closer examinations of their prospects for passage. Thanks again for a wonderful Town Hall Day, and we look forward to turning that momentum into policy wins that keep cities and towns strong. Contact: Rose Williams