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League Bulletin

April 13, 2018

Registration is now open for the League’s first-ever Town & State Dinner, scheduled for May 29 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Raleigh Convention Center. Don’t wait to register, as space is limited for this exclusive advocacy event. The Town & State Dinner provides the opportunity to be with your legislators in a more intimate environment perfect for networking and strengthening relationships. Join us in celebrating state and local leaders who have worked so hard to advocate for municipalities and their residents. After you register, be sure to invite your legislator to join you as your special guest.  The League will also be extending electronic and printed invitations to legislators directly. Legislators do not need to register; instead they can RSVP directly to Town&​.​ For this year’s legislative short session, the Town & State Dinner is being held in lieu of Town Hall Day. Register now​.

A hugely important case for business fairness and local government will have its day in court next week. Oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in South Dakota v. Wayfair​ are set for Tuesday, with South Dakota asking justices to rule that states and local governments may require retailers with no in-state physical presence -- e-commerce websites, for instance -- to collect sales tax. The case reassesses a Supreme Court decision from 1992 (in the early, undeveloped days of e-commerce) that retailers didn't need to collect and remit sales taxes unless they had an in-state physical presence. Today, online retailers are numerous and of massive proportions, giving this sales-tax loophole a much different dynamic and urgency. In November 2017, a Government Accountability Office report estimated that states and local governments could "gain from about $8 billion to $13 billion in 2017 if states were given authority to requires sales tax collection from all remote sellers."​

"While it's impossible to determine the outcome of the case, there is reason to believe the Court may replace the 'physical presence' test with a timelier option, such as an economic presence test," the National League of Cities (NLC) said in an update about the case this week. "Such a ruling would be a huge step forward in the fight for parity between brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers." Meanwhile, federal legislation for parity is pending. The N.C. League of Municipalities' membership supports​​ federal e-fairness action that would close the online sales tax loophole, restore marketplace fairness for competing brick and mortar businesses and create new revenue for state and local governments. A nationwide webinar is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday on the case's history and ramifications. Register now.

Local officials looking to increase the availability of broadband in their communities should make plans to attend the League-sponsored NC Hearts Gigabit Interactive. The April 20 forum in Raleigh will gather people from across the state to discuss how to bring broadband networks to local communities and make them more economically resilient. Attend to learn from an elite group of state and national experts on community-led broadband efforts, including NCLM broadband report co-author Joanne Hovis, president of CTC Technology and Energy and a recognized expert on communications policy at the federal, state, and local levels. Gov. Roy Cooper will open the daylong conference, former Gov. James B. Hunt will serve as the keynote speaker, and Rep. Craig Horn​ will discuss the importance of internet access in our schools. Attendees will benefit from hearing a playbook of actionable steps they can take back home to advance local broadband projects. Register now​.

​The state is seeking applications for community projects that would fight the opioid crisis under the NC Opioid Action Plan. One-time grants of $150,000 are available to that end. The deadline to apply is May 4​. “These grants will help local communities work together to turn the tide of the opioid crisis through treatment and recovery assistance,” N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a news release with full details. “We look forward to collaborating with communities around the state to accomplish the vision set forth in the NC Opioid Action Plan.” DHHS says awards are available to local governments, community organizations, hospitals and other partners in the fight. The state launched the Opioid Action plan in June 2017 with strategies to turn the tide, like expanding treatment and recovery systems, increasing naloxone availability and connecting overdose survivors with care. 
The state is funding these grants, according to DHHS. While Congress has separately approved nearly $6 billion for resources in the drug epidemic, the National League of Cities (NLC) says it's unclear whether or how those funds would reach the local level. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are the majority recipients of that money. NLC has been urging a system to link the federal funding directly with local programs that battle opioid abuse.

Elected federal officials in North Carolina say they've secured more funding to help North Carolina's ongoing recovery from 2016's Hurricane Matthew. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr this week jointly announced an additional $189 million, "secured by the North Carolina delegation in the Senate budet agreement passed in February." The senators in a press release noted that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had just announced that North Carolina would receive $168 million in disaster mitigation grants, while the U.S. Department of Transportation announced​ $21 million for the state. "I want to thank the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Transportation for allocating nearly $190 million in additional funds, which will go a long way in helping our local communities recover and ensure North Carolina’s families are not forgotten," Senator Tillis said. In the U.S. House, Rep. David Price, a ranking member on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a news release​: "This latest tranche of assistance means North Carolina has now secured more than $1.4 billion from HUD and other federal agencies. These resources will help address critical unmet needs in our state as we continue the process of rebuilding and recovering from Hurricane Matthew.”

Hundreds of new jobs are poised to land in North Carolina following newly announced expansions and recruitments made possible by local and state government teamwork. On Tuesday, state and local officials announced that multinational manufacturer of hygiene products Albaad USA Inc. would expand U.S. operations with a $45 million investment in Reidsville. It will bring more than 300 new jobs to the area, with salaries averaging higher than the countywide average. “We are very pleased to continue expanding our Albaad USA business in Reidsville,” said Albaad Plant Manager Gidi Tenne. “We continue to build on a great workforce, culture and community that supports advanced manufacturing jobs in Rockingham County. This merging of technology and a strong, creative workforce is the foundation of our success and we look forward to continued growth in the future.” The City of Reidsville and its eco​nomic development team were among numerous partners in the expansion, including also the General Assembly and Rockingham County.

The day before, the N.C. Department of Commerce announced 44 jobs in Wilson with a $31 million investment by Neopac US. The global company, which makes primary packaging for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, is planning a high-tech facility at Wilson Corporate Park, a designated "Smart Site"​ that has met rigorous standards that match up with what site selectors want. “For the last two years, we’ve done a detailed evaluation for a suitable site location in the US and we are pleased to locate our new US headquarters in Wilson, a community that matches perfectly with our requirements for qualified people, supportive government, a high quality of life and proximity to our customers,” Mark Aegler, CEO of Neopac owner Hoffmann Neopac AG, said in a news release. The governor's office on Tuesday also announced 422 jobs​ created in Durham County with an expansion of LabCorp, which is headquartered in Burlington and employs more than 60,000 people around the globe. And on Thursday, the state ​announced another 50 jobs​ per an expansion in Winston-Salem, again with local-state-private teamwork. ​​