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League Bulletin

July 10, 2015

Legislators took a break this week, adjourning the legislative session until this coming Monday. The result meant no committee meetings, and that several bills affecting cities and towns -- including a regulatory reform measure, HB 44 Local Government Regulatory Reform 2015, now being negotiated by a conference committee -- were effectively on hold. Rep. David Lewis of Dunn said the decision to take a break is in keeping with a commitment to allow legislators and staff to spend time with their families during the summer months.

It is expected that legislators will return to an initial flurry of activity, but that budget negotiations will soon dominate the remainder of the session. Contact: Rose Williams

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina has joined Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to co-sponsor a bill to modernize our nation’s outdated sales tax collection process. The League of Municipalities has sent a letter to Representative Ellmers thanking her for her co-sponsorship of the bill. The League also has sent letters to the other members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation asking them to cosponsor this bill. We need you to do the same.

The Remote Transactions Parity Act (H.R. 2775) would close the online sales tax loophole and level the playing field for the businesses that help build your community, employ local residents and pay local property taxes. As many of you are aware, this federal legislation is not about a new tax or about damaging Internet sales. It is simply about creating a federal mechanism so that states can enforce existing law. This Act will provide local governments with the resources needed to invest in communities, build infrastructure, provide important services like emergency response, and to build on the services that enhance residents’ quality of life and help attract economic development.

Each year, more than $200 million in sales taxes from online purchases goes uncollected in North Carolina. For local governments in the state, the loss amounts to roughly $65 million. Congress can give state and local governments the power to require sellers who do not have a physical presence in their jurisdiction to charge and collect sales taxes.

Take two minutes now to click this link and send this pre-written message to let your representative know how important this issue is to you. The letter has already been drafted. All you need to do is fill out your name and address.

Thank you for making a difference for the businesses and residents in your community! Contact: Rose Williams

A Senate budget provision that could lead to the elimination of municipal service districts gained more public attention this week as the provision's sponsor told both The Greensboro News & Record and The News & Observer of Raleigh that she had directed the provision at taxing districts covering historic districts. Meanwhile, The News & Observer also took a look at the effect the provision could have on several beach communities, which utilize the districts for beach renourishment. Senator Trudy Wade said that she put the provision in the Senate's budget after complaints from residents living in an historic district in Greensboro.

The provision, though, does not distinguish between types of municipal service districts, allowing citizen-led ballot initiatives to abolish "any service district established under G.S. 160A-536." That statute covers all municipal service districts, including downtown districts typically established with the backing of business owners who often do not live in the districts and who, under the provision, would not be eligible to vote in any referendum to abolish them. It also covers so-called "sand districts" in beach towns. Referenda in beach towns would result in the exclusion of beachfront homeowners whose primary residences are elsewhere.

League staff will continue to reiterate members' concerns and opposition to this provision to House and Senate budget negotiators. Read the new stories referenced above here and here. Contact: Erin Wynia

The Greensboro City Council voted Wednesday to sue the state to try to block legislation passed last week that would redraw council districts and rework the mayor's authority. Council members took the action after a two-hour public hearing in which more than 60 people spoke. The council's action followed harsh criticism of HB 263 City Elections/Trinity and Greensboro by Gov. Pat McCrory earlier in the week. The governor said he intended to have his lawyers review the bill as well. As a local bill, the governor does not have the power to veto the measure. Read previous League coverage on passage of the bill here.

A provision in a 58-page regulatory reform bill that passed the Senate last week would end a recycling fee paid by manufacturers of computer and television equipment. HB 765 Regulatory Reform Act of 2015 now goes back to the House for consideration. The provision does not change state law that prohibits discarding computers and televisions in landfills, meaning more costs could be passed on to landfill operators, including local governments. Read media coverage about the proposal here.

Municipal efforts to bring their residents better, faster Internet connections continue to receive public attention, with the latest coming from technology and science blog Motherboard. The blog, in an article this week, discusses the formation of the Next Century Cities coalition and how cities are pushing to overcome a monopolistic system that has seen the U.S. fall behind other many countries when it comes to broadband speed and costs. The piece notes telecom companies' opposition to competing with municipal broadband and concludes, "Municipal and self-started broadband networks can be the future, but who knows how far off this particular future really is?" Read previous League coverage about municipal broadband and the Federal Communication Commission's ruling in support of overturning state laws that restrict municipal systems here and here.

Design and technology blog Gizmodo has published an extensive essay this week on the subject of cities dealing with urban wildlife. The piece, written by University of California at Santa Barbara professor Peter Alagona, says the increasingly and relatively recent move by coyotes and other larger wild animals into urban environments should not be surprising. "Most American cities occupy sites that were once rich ecosystems," he writes. Wild animals, including larger predators, establishing themselves in cities is predictable given laws and public attitudes that are more protective of these animals, he writes. Alagona calls for more study of wild animal behavior in urban environments and for better policies about how different government agencies coordinate and respond to them. The article appeared about the same time that media reports indicated that coyotes stalked a boxer puppy being walked on a leash by its owner while in an N.C. State University-owned forest in the Raleigh city limits.