Legislators took something of a spring recess this week, holding no committee meetings and only skeleton floor sessions. That did not mean that all work came to a halt. Bills continued to be filed in the House, even if at a slower pace than the previous week, and House budget writers were holding some discussions on their two-year spending plan.
Meanwhile, both inside and outside the Legislative Building, talk continues about SB 369 Sales Tax Fairness Act, which would make huge changes to the distribution of $2.2 billion of sales tax revenue to local governments. Here is one of many editorials from around that state that have appeared on the subject in recent days.
A new poll suggests that an overwhelming majority of North Carolina voters, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, don't believe the General Assembly should be drawing district lines for local government elections. The survey from Public Policy Polling asked respondents, "Do you think the General Assembly should set boundary lines for things like City Council and County Commissioner elections, or should that be determined at the local level?" In response, 73 percent said the lines should be set at the local level, compared to just 12 percent who believed legislators should draw them. Republican respondents, at 79 percent, were more opposed to the General Assembly drawing the lines than Democrats (67 percent) or independents (73 percent).
The poll comes after the General Assembly approved legislation reconfiguring the districts for the Wake County Board of Commissioners and as it considers one proposal to change the districts for the Greensboro City Council and another to alter the Trinity City Council. The poll of 751 North Carolina voters was taken April 2-5. You can find the full results here.
HB 616 Local Governmental Employees’ Retire. COLA was filed yesterday and would provide Local Government Employees Retirement System (LGERS) retirees with a 1% cost of living adjustment (COLA) effective July 1 of this year.
This legislation comes after the Local Government Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees voted in January to provide a fiscally responsible COLA to retirees by relying solely on existing funds available through the system's recent investment gains. Specifically, the Board approved the League and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners supported COLA of 0.625%.
Although a fiscal note by the General Assembly has not yet been released, the higher COLA called for in this legislation would increase each participating local governments' contribution rate for general employees. That rate had been previously set at 6.67 percent, but would rise to approximately 6.77 percent under the bill. Contact: Sarah Collins
The League continued its Listening and Visioning Tour this week with events in Manteo, Ahoskie and Wake Forest. At each stop, NCLM Executive Director Paul Meyer shared information about the strategic visioning process initiated by the Board of Directors to identify a preferred model for municipal government. Paul also received feedback from members about their concerns, thoughts on the future vision, and ways League staff can provide better assistance and service to towns and cities. The School of Government is also participating in this process and was a part of the events in Manteo and Ahoskie.
Municipal officials shared their thoughts, many of them focused on municipal revenue and municipal authority and the threats they see to both. Other topics included communication tools and methods, legislative and county commission relationships, and the status of local governance, particularly around transportation and tourism-related issues. Additionally, members asked about specific legislation such as SB 369 Sales Tax Fairness Act and bills dealing with building design/aesthetics and historic preservation tax credits.
At each venue, member participation and engagement has been extremely positive. League staff is excited to meet members in their areas and to hear their ideas. Listening Tour stops next week include Greensboro, Mooresville, Monroe and Pinehurst. If you are interested in participating in one of the remaining events, please visit here. Come and join in the conversation! Contact: Vickie Miller
The push for the restoration of a state historic tax credit continued this week, with the League issuing an Action Alert urging members to contact Senators to support the measure and Gov. Pat McCrory and Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz continuing their tour to advocate for the legislation's passage.
The League sent out the Action Alert to make clear that League staff believes that the issue will remain in play throughout the course of the legislative session, even if the Senate does not take up HB 152 New Historic Preservation Tax Credit. That bill passed the House overwhelmingly, but is now parked in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, considered that chamber's legislation graveyard. Whatever the fate of the House bill (it can be re-referred to another committee), a tax credit proposal could become a part of House and Senate budget discussions, as occurred last year.
Governor McCrory and Secretary Kluttz made stops in New Bern and Goldsboro this week, with Secretary Kluttz making additional stops in Warrenton and Louisburg as part of an ongoing tour to bring public attention to the need for the tax credit and its positive effects on economic development. League Immediate Past President and Goldsboro Mayor Al King hosted and introduced the Governor and Secretary at a news conference in downtown Goldsboro. Read coverage of that event here.
The League and several other groups are a part of a coalition supporting these efforts, and has been involved in helping to arrange some of the tour stops. As a part of the effort, this op-ed from League 1st Vice President Lestine Hutchens spells out the critical need for this economic development tool in towns like Elkin, where traditional manufacturing jobs have moved overseas. Contact: Scott Mooneyham
A local bill filed that would change the governing relationship between the City of Fayetteville and its city-owned utility, the Fayetteville Public Works Commission, is getting more scrutiny because of a provision that would affect voluntary annexation. The provision in HB 392 Fayetteville Charter/PWC Changes would prevent the city from requiring voluntary annexation as a condition of extending water and sewer service to areas outside its corporate limits.
The legislation is the result of a dispute between city officials and the members of the city-owned utilities' board over governance and budget issues, but neither requested the annexation-related provision. Former Mayor Tony Chavonne wrote this blistering critique of the proposal in last Sunday's Fayetteville Observer. The League sees the provision as a threat to orderly growth that would unfairly burden municipal taxpayers who, as former Mayor Chavonne points out, are the ultimate owners of city utilities. Read more about the provision, including the League's comments on it, here.