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League Bulletin

July 6, 2018

WHAT HAPPENED: It’s mid-summer, and the General Assembly has left town, at least until November, when lawmakers could return for more action following the General Election.

WHAT IT MEANS: For legislators, it is campaign season, even if the traditional season and all the political ads won’t rev up until September. For the League, it is on to a myriad of chores that don’t involve legislative committee meetings – things like planning for CityVision 2018, regional grassroots meetings, continuing to work on broadband access strategy, planning for advocacy goals and policy committee meetings, and planning for something of a relaunch of our Here We Grow campaign (stay tuned).

ON TAP: More immediately, we will be releasing our End of Session Bulletin in coming days, so be on the lookout for what we think is a great resource that can be used time and again to reference what happened in the 2018 legislative session.

THE SKINNY: Now back to all the news that affects municipalities but is not necessarily legislative-related. ​

By now, you may be aware that the N.C. Utilities Commission has issued an order in the rate case affecting customers of Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC), which includes many cities and towns in the western half of the state. The order should lead to substantial benefits for municipalities and follows the League intervening on a number of issues before the commission. We are very pleased with the outcome and that commission members carefully and thoroughly considered our arguments. At the same time, the order provides for more input from NCLM and its members going forward on a number fronts. Click here for highlights and details.
RIght now, we need your help and your ideas. Within the next six months, DEC will be filing details regarding the proposed new time-of-use, critical peak pricing and other dynamic rate structures called for in the order. While many customers will be able to take advantage of these new rate structures, the League was the main intervenor to make the requests, so we want to ensure that what is proposed is of the most use and benefit to our members. NCLM will also continue to participate in the stakeholder process for grid modernization and continue to meet with DEC on lighting issues.
Please provide any input you have regarding these issues to League Legislative and Regulatory Counsel Sarah Collins at​.

League Executive Director Paul Meyer appeared on a segment of "In Focus with Loretta Boniti" recently to discuss issues municipalities face as North Carolina grows. On the 30-minute public affairs show from Spectrum News, Meyer highlighted the turnaround growth that municipalities across the state are experiencing and noted that the majority of the state's jobs and retail sales are happening within our cities and towns. But challenges come with that, he added. "Certainly, cities are responsible for providing the infrastructure that fuels that growth, and the elected officials that are making the decisions about how to expand that infrastructure have to have the right tools -- financial tools -- to be able to do that," said Meyer. He emphasized that a good relationship between local government and the business​ community is key as well. Watch the full segment online.
It also spotlighted Goldsboro's downtown approach to economic development. A revamped streetscape is a major piece of that, aided by a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, now known as BUILD​, or Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development), as well as millions of dollars invested by the city. "That has definitely helped us in revitalization within our downtown area," Jennifer Collins, assistant planning director with the city, says in the "In Focus" segment. "The infrastructure there has just improved the streetscape and businesses have just flourished."

Goldsboro's downtown comeback, and what its local government did to bring it about, is one of numerous success stories being told at Here We Grow. That's the League's one-of-a-kind website -- that all League-member cities and towns should be a part of -- compiling local-level economic development wins from across the state and offering tools for municipal leaders to share how they achieved them. For Goldsboro, Here We Grow captures how downtown has bloomed into a thriving and beautiful space designed for pedestrians and business success. "The success didn’t happen overnight," the Here We Grow article points out. It followed a long line of smart, local decision-making, public investments​ and leveraging of resources that have altogether resulted in millions of dollars in private investment within a short time period downtown. Read more at Here We Grow.
Here We Grow's stories come directly from YOU, and your participation is as easy as it is powerful. To be featured: 
1) Simply log in and submit a brief article explaining the context, decisions and details of success for any economic development project that your local government helped to fruition.
2) Attached a photo (the larger, the better).
The Department of State Treasurer this week issued guidance regarding new requirements for tracking building inspection fee revenue. The guidance calls for affected local governments to begin tracking data on July 1, although reporting is not due until June 30, 2019. A dispatch issued by that department reads as follows:

"An item in the 2018 budget bill (S.L. 2018-5, Section XXI, page 162) requires local governments to specifically track building inspection fee revenue and the expending of that revenue. Cities and counties will report the revenue and related expenditures on the AFIR beginning with the report due for June 30, 2019 (S.L. 2018-29, Section 4.5.(a) clarifies that this requirement goes into effect as of June 30, 2019). There will be a specific section on the AFIR for this information. Units should begin tracking this data as of July 1, 2018, in such a manner that will facilitate this reporting requirement at June 30.

"Please contact our staff with any questions at 919-814-4299."

The department also offered the following clarification: 

"While the language in the budget bill was not specific, it is our belief that the inspection fees referred to are those that are charged under the authority granted in G.S. 153A-354 for counties or G.S. 160A-414 for municipalities. The language in both of these bills restricts the expenditure of the allowed fees to those expenditures incurred 'for support of the administration and activities of the inspection department and for no other purpose.' (G.S. 160A-414, identical language included in G.S. 153A-354). One purpose for the separate reporting is to help verify that the funds a​re being spent as required, so we feel comfortable that these are the only fees to be reported under this new requirement."

The recent, long-awaited U.S. Supreme Court decision that state and local government may enforce sales tax collection from out-of-state online retailers has generated loads of questions about what's next. An upcoming webinar hosted by the National League of Cities will look at the court's opinion, what state and local governments may do with it, reactions from the federal to local levels, and lobbying strategies that stakeholders may use. Register online for the webinar, scheduled for July 12 at 1 p.m.

This isn't the only U.S. Supreme Court case with ramifications for local government. A second webinar, hosted by the National Association of Counties and scheduled for July 24 at 1 p.m., will look at this Supreme Court term and what local leaders need to know, as told by legal experts and regulatory affairs reporter for The Hill Lydia Wheeler. Register online​

A fall in vehicle gas tax revenue has led to reduced funding for public transportation systems in North Carolina, according to a news report this week. WUNC reported on Thursday that the N.C. Department of Transportation had notified 24 public transit systems about reduced revenues. As noted in the story, local transit leaders are concerned that such a funding reduction could make public transportation options less desirable for the public, as those cuts may impact smooth and fast service. Decreased ridership would compound the problem. Chapel Hill's transit system is highlighted in the news story, with its administrator telling the outlet that the town is having to pull money from its "desperately needed" replacement-bus fund to plug the new gap. Read the full story at WUNC​.

The League is accepting proposals for 2018-19 Advocacy Goals through Aug. 1. Discuss ideas with your municipal elected officials and staff, and click here to submit your ideas for advocacy goals. Every two years, you -- the cities and towns of North Carolina -- develop legislative and regulatory goals for the upcoming legislative biennium. These goals serve as the guide to the League's advocacy efforts here in Raleigh. More than that, they are a collective statement of the priorities of North Carolina municipalities, big and small, urban, suburban and rural. The process of setting the Municipal Advocacy Goals is an opportunity for each municipality to have a voice in telling state legislators and other state policymakers what is important to them.

The advocacy goals also propel us towards two of the Vision 2030 Operating Principles: (1) municipal governments exercise greater control of their revenues, structures and functions, and (2) municipal governments engage in productive partnerships with other levels of government and the private sector.
Legislative and regulatory goals should include a clear ask, and should have an impact on municipal governments statewide. According to League bylaws, you must indicate on your goal proposal whether it was voted on and approved by your local council or board. Proposals will be considered by NCLM policy committees, the NCLM Board of Directors, and the entire membership during the Advocacy Goals Conference. The League may also request that you visit one of our policy committees​​ to further explain your suggested goal, as a part of the goals selection process.
This is your policy process, so please give this thoughtful consideration and participate. Don’t miss this opportunity to submit your proposals by Aug. 1.