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League Bulletin

August 17, 2018

WHAT HAPPENED: Though the legislature was out of session, controversy around the session continued as disputes over November ballot items entered courtrooms.
WHAT IT MEANS: Judges this week heard from lawyers in separate lawsuits, including one from the​ governor, seeking to bar certain constitutional amendment questions​ from the ballot on grounds that they're misleading or unconstitutional. Nothing is settled yet, even with Election Day on the horizon.
ON TAP: Elections officials are waiting on a green light for ballot printing, currently on pause until the courts decide what to do. Separately, on Monday, a Wake County judge issued an injunction stopping the printing of ballots in a case brought by a judicial candidate over a recently passed law that, in effect, removed his party affiliation from the ballot.
THE SKINNY: It's election season, folks. 

Time is running out! Pre-register today for CityVision 2018. Set for Hickory on Sept. 19-21, CityVision is the League's premier event full of engaging keynote speakers and informative sessions that will give you the tools you need to face the challenges in your hometowns head on. This year, CityVision will offer roundtable discussions following each general session to address shared challenges, connect with regional partners and engage in facilitated discussions to gain practical information that you can use immediately.
This is the best opportunity for municipal officials from around the state to dive deep into issues like broadband and technology, infrastructure, branding your municipality and, most of all, grants -- finding the money you need to prepare your municipality for tomorrow. State Attorney General Josh Stein is also on the agenda to discuss the scourge of opioid abuse and how communities can fight back. The annual conference also is where members elect officers and make any constitutional or bylaw changes. Pre-registration ends Friday, Aug. 24, so register early to avoid increased walk-in registration fees.

Derwin Montgomery, a longtime member of the Winston-Salem City Council and recent member of the League's Board of Directors, has been tapped to fill a vacancy in the General Assembly. Media outlets report that the Forsyth County Democratic Party picked Montgomery on Sunday for the District 72 House seat, occupied by three-term legislator Ed Hanes until his immediate resignation last week. Montgomery joined the Winston-Salem City Council in 2009 as the youngest person ever elected to the post, according to news coverage. The Winston-Salem Journal reported that Montgomery is expected to resign from municipal office this fall. The General Assembly's website already features a profile page​ for him.

The National League of Cities (NLC) has picked Durham and Winston-Salem among six cities and towns nationally for the next round of the organization's CHAMPS initiative (Cities Combating Hunger Through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs) to fight hunger locally. Durham was awarded $125,000 and Winston-Salem $115,000 with 18 months of technical assistance. A press release from Winston-Salem explains the city will use the funds to work with local agencies to boost after-school and summer feeding program enrollment for students and a nutrition assistance program for low-income households. "Hunger and food insecurity were identified as a core issue" by one of the city's community bodies, noted Mayor Allen Joines. "This grant aligns with some of its recommendations and will help maximize our community’s use of federal nutrition programs." NLC's blog​ has more details about the effort.

The U.S. Senate, for the first time since 2000, has approved most of its yearly spending bills, the National League of Cities (NLC) points out in its latest advocacy update. "It doesn't sound like a big deal, but for city leaders, this is progress and there are two key reasons to applaud," says the NLC dispatch. For one, it's just good health for the budget process, with officials moving on legislation at a rate that could see completion in both chambers and at the White House in time for the new federal fiscal year on Nov. 1. Secondly, says NLC, "it shows the power of bipartisan cooperation," with senators agreeing to keep partisan policy issues out of spending bills. NLC notes that the Senate is maintaining last year's funding increases for city priorities, including $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program. In other news, while the U.S. House is in recess, NLC is encouraging cities and towns to speak out on why they need durable federal-local partnerships on infrastructure. More details are in NLC's latest advocacy update.

State agencies annually create a statewide action plan that lays out how the state will address affordable housing and community development needs. Those agencies, chiefly the N.C. Housing Finance Agency, are now seeking input for the 2019 Annual Action Plan. "We have created a survey​ through which housing and homeless services organizations (particularly those receiving federal CDBG, HOME, HTF, ESG, or HOPWA funds) can provide input that will help us set priority needs, address those needs, and evaluate the effectiveness of our work," says an email from coordinators. 

Responding to customer anxiety over long lines and wait times, the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) this week announced a series of changes for its offices. “Our top priorities are to issue accurate and timely documents in an efficient manner for all our customers,” said NCDMV Commissioner Torre Jessup in a news release​ that includes a bullet list of those plans. “We will be taking many steps over the coming weeks and months to recruit, hire and train new staff and will continue to look for other ways to cut customers’ wait times,” Jessup said. The agency pointed to a clamor for REAL ID​ as a contributor to the crunch.