The General Assembly dropped its final gavel of the 2016 short session in the late hours of July 1 after addressing a number of provisions of municipal interest, in some cases improving them before approval or dropping potentially harmful measures. The roughly 10 weeks of legislating closed as League staff worked diligently with lawmakers to ensure the best possible outcomes on proposals that were in circulation. The League would again like to thank all lawmakers who worked with the League and individual municipalities to better understand their concerns and hear how healthy cities and towns benefit the entire state.
To recap some of the activity in the final stretch of the 2016 session:
The legislature also, in Friday's last laps, sent the governor a $22.3 billion budget that included several positives for North Carolina municipalities, including a continuation of Powell Bill funding at the level approved last year -- $147.5 million statewide. In addition, the budget:
The budget went to the governor after strong, bipartisan approval in the House and Senate. Thanks so much to the General Assembly for its consideration of municipalities in the budget's development. The League is now assembling its End-of-Session Bulletin to provide a detailed record of all legislation of interest to cities and towns and how each proposal fared. Click here for up-to-date information on bills that are pending on the governor's desk or already signed into law.
The U.S. Department of Justice wants to see the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, or House Bill 2, suspended from enforcement as the federal agency challenges it in court. It filed for a temporary injunction Tuesday night with an argument that HB2 is substantially damaging to the state and LGBT individuals. According to a media report, it's possible USDOJ's case applies only to government agencies and employees, as its filing doesn't specifically discuss the portion of HB2 that prohibits municipalities from passing citywide anti-discrimination ordinances, such as the one the Charlotte City Council passed earlier this year to allow transgender individuals the right to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The legislature held a special session in March to overturn that ordinance via HB2, which prohibited such local action statewide. Click here to read more media coverage of USDOJ's new filing. Click here to read the filing itself. WRAL also reported this week that HB2 could cost Raleigh as much as $40 million in convention business, per cancelations that cited HB2.
A $35 million-per-year allocation from the General Assembly can be thanked for one of the biggest customers the Port of Wilmington has received to date. According to the Wilmington StarNews, the Hanjin Baltimore is a container vessel nearly 1,000 feet long and 140-feet wide and is symbolic of the kind of traffic the port will receive in the future following the expansion of the Panama Canal. The State Ports Authority had asked the legislature to help fund improvements that would accommodate the larger "post-Panamax" ships coming through. Ports officials said that's vital to keep up with business and compete with other states' ports, all in all a positive for North Carolina's economy. According to a Ports Authority news release, port activities here contribute statewide to 76,000 jobs and $700 million annually in state and local tax revenues.
The Wilmington newspaper on Tuesday reported that the legislature's allocation, which began last year, made the Hanjin Baltimore's visit possible and would help to fund the purchase of two new cranes and berth improvement. The port wants to double its traffic in the coming years. Said Chief Commercial Officer Greg Fennell, "If there was ever a doubt that we could not accept a post-Panamax vessel, this ship puts that debate to rest." Click here for video of the ship passing Bald Head Island.
Episode Two of the Municipal Equation podcast landed this week with national, state and local voices weighing in on the challenges that municipalties face with infrastructure funding. According to a recent report from the National League of Cities, the burden of paying for infrastructure keeps sliding to local government. Why? And, more importantly, is there anything we can do? This episode exlores the infrastructure deficit and the tools that municipalities can explore to trim it down. Click here to listen and here to see recent News & Observer coverage of the podcast's launch, which began with the inspiring survival story of Winston-Salem City Councilmember Denise Adams, a League board member who was also the cover feature in the latest issue of Southern City. Municipal Equation is made possible by the North Carolina League of Municipalties. It's available for free subscription on iTunes and can be streamed on most podcast apps, like Stitcher, TuneIn, Overcast and Google Play. Producer/host: Ben Brown.
Four North Carolina cities are ranked among the top in the nation for software engineering careers. Marketplace website Glassdoor crunched numbers on cities across the nation to compile a top-25 list of those where software engineers earn the most and found Raleigh in an impressive fifth place. The website examined cost-of-living data in each city and weighed them against the local software engineer salary-base to determine a "real adjusted salary." After the math, Glassdoor found the salary to be $94,142 in Raleigh, where the cost of living is 4.4 percent below the national average. The site counted 416 related job openings in Raleigh at the time of the study. The site also ranked Durham and Chapell Hill together as 12th in the nation, with a real adjusted salary of $88,143 and a cost of living at 4.7 percent below the national average. Charlotte came in at 18th, with a real adjusted salary of $85,653 and a cost of living at 6.6 percent below the national average.