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League Bulletin

April 20, 2018

Don't delay your registration 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. Space is limited for this exclusive advocacy event, providing you 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. Members will hear the latest policy updates from Gov. Roy Cooper, House Speaker Tim Moore, Attorney General Josh Stein, and fellow leaders. 

This League sponsored dinner gives you the chance to spend time socializing with your legislator. While the League will be inviting legislators, a personal invitation directly from their constituents means more. After you register yourself, be sure to give your legislator a call and personally invite him or her to join you for dinner. The League is 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.


A lack of access to high-speed broadband affects communities of every size in North Carolina, and the League invites you to learn the fundamentals about community-led broadband. Join NCLM Legislative Counsel Erin Wynia on Thursday, May 10, at 10 a.m., for the Community-Led Broadband Basics webinar. The webinar will include highlights of the League’s new broadband report: key terms, explanations of technology, broadband public-private parnterships, the state's legal landscape, and tips on how to bring broadband networks to your community. Register in advance​. Instructions for joining the webinar will be included in your registration confirmation.

Long-awaited oral arguments​ played out before the U.S. Supreme Court this week in a vital case for business fairness and local government resources. ​Observers are analyzing where the justices might stand in South Dakota v. Wayfair, a case asking that states and local governments be allowed to require retailers with no in-state physical presence -- e-commerce websites, for instance -- to collect sales tax. Such a decision would overturn a Supreme Court ruling from 1992 (Quill v. North Dakota) that retailers didn't need to collect and remit sales taxes unless they had an in-state physical presence. The enormous growth of e-commerce since then has earned it new scrutiny; it's now a $450 billion-per-year sector, according to Route Fifty's coverage of the case. While a decision isn't expected until the end of June, the National League of Cities believes there is the potential for four votes for overturning the Quill decision, based on Tuesday's oral arguments and justices' comments. On the nine-member court, that would still leave a ruling overturning Quill one vote short, but there may be additional support for a decision that stops short of that result while still providing some relief for cities and towns. 

NLC released an analysis from in-house and external sources of the justices' apparent stances on the case. "Based on oral argument the Court is likely to follow one of three paths. It could keep the physical presence test and not overturn Quill. It could overturn Quill and replace (or add to) the physical presence test an economic nexus test (like the South Dakota law which requires out-of-state vendors to collect tax only if they annually conduct $100,000 worth of business or 200 separate transactions annually in the state). Finally, it could overturn Quill and allow states to require all out-of-state vendors to collect sales tax no matter how much (or little) business they do in a state." Hard projections regarding the outcome are difficult at this stage, NLC says, but "it is not too difficult to count four votes for overturning Quill (Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Gorsuch). Getting a fifth vote from Chief Justice Roberts or Justices Breyer, Alito, or Kagan as to an economic nexus test seems possible. Five votes to repudiate Quill with no replacement seems unlikely. But most states and local governments would be fine with an economic nexus test." A CitiesSpeak blogpost​ offers more context and analysis from the oral arguments. The post, citing the National Conference of State Legislatures, points out that states lost an estimated $23.3 billion in 2012 from being prohibited from collecting sales tax from online and catalog purchases.

The N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) this week announced the approval of 15 grant requests totaling more than $6.5 million for communities where there are commitments to create roughly 1,730 jobs along with an expected $214 million in private investment, according to a press release. “Communities need infrastructure such as buildings, water and sewer, and ready sites to attract business,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Anthony Copeland on Thursday. “The grants the Rural Infrastructure Authority approved today will help rural communities secure economic development projects and bring jobs to their area.” Municipalities including Rutherfordton, Washington, Andrews, Conover and Siler City were among winning applicants. The press release has full details.

Of all the political, economic and cultural concerns of today, the “urban-rural divide” is no slouch. But sometimes it’s oversimplified, devoid of nuance, or turned into an adversarial narrative (i.e. “urban vs. rural”), instead of carefully analyzed for greater-good fixes. On this episode of Municipal Equation -- the League's biweekly podcast​ about cities and towns in the face of change -- we delve into a recent report that pulls apart that narrative and gives us a different way of looking at this “divide,” and shows us how urban and rural may be more linked than one might think. Christiana McFarland of the National League of Cities joins us. ​​

New to the podcast? The latest episode is a great place to start, but we have heaping topics in our bank of past episodes​: ​broadband; police recruitment​; ​public outreach; generational change; the sharing economy; driverless cars; craft beer; creative economic development; and many more. Have an idea for an episode? Or feedback on one we've already done? Reach out to host/producer Ben Brown​

The Economic Census is just ahead, and it's a vital collector of business data for economic development. Conducted every five years with the business sector, "it is a cornerstone of many Census Bureau and other federal statistical programs that provide timely information on the health of the U.S. economy," said a Census Bureau newsletter this month​. Local officials should encourage businesses in their area to respond. The Bureau has created a number of explainers and promotional materials to help.
Now, for the first time, the Economic Census will be conducted almost entirely online for accessibility and ease, a change from the paper-and-mail system of before. The Census Bureau has, however, sent letters to nearly 4 million business locations to inform them that the process has begun. The Economic Census "provides industry and market statistics at the national, state and local levels and gives businesses the information they need to make informed decisions," according to program literature.

Drones are more available and advanced than ever, and the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) wants to make sure local governments and businesses are on a good page when it comes to their usage. NCDOT's Division of Aviation Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Program recently held a workshop in Nags Head that drew more than 130 attendees for discussions about drones applications in areas like emergency response and erosion monitoring. Data management, safety and other practical applications were also in focus. These free workshops will continue, with another one scheduled to coincide with the 2018 N.C. Drone Summit and Flight Expo on August 5-7 in Greensboro. “Drone technology is quickly advancing, and so are the possibilities for a business or government organization interested in using one,” Basil Yap, NCDOT's UAS Program Manager, said in a press release.  “Attendees should now have a clear understanding of how they can use the technology, and what it takes to effectively implement drones into their organization.” The League's Municipal Equation podcast in 2016 dedicated an episode to drones in local government​