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League Bulletin

August 23, 2019

​WHAT HAPPENED: Things notched up a bit. The legislature made its own funding moves as the budget impasse held. A handful of bills progressed. The governor vetoed one dealing with immigration enforcement. Lawmakers discussed refunding surplus money to taxpayers. But it's still unclear when the 2019 session will close out.
WHAT IT MEANS: As reported by the Insider State Government News Service on Thursday, the General Assembly is expected next week to pass individual funding bills to move on expenditures, like state employee pay raises, that have been caught up in the state budget standoff between legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper, whose spokesperson criticized the piece-by-piece funding efforts as just a way to avoid negotiation.
ON TAP: Top lawmakers meanwhile have eyed the state's budget surplus with a proposal to return it​ to taxpayers. As discussed​, the idea is to provide $680 million in refunds that would break down to $125 per taxpayer or $250 to couples filing jointly. 
THE SKINNY: With the legislature in efforts to greenlight suspended expenditures, a wholesale agreement between the chambers and the governor seems no closer to reality. All in all, it was a fairly light week for cities and towns at the General Assembly, but read on for the highlights.  

SB 315 North Carolina Farm Act of 2019​, a large agricultural package with a hemp measure at law enforcement's attention, passed the House this week and has gone to the Senate for concurrence. Most legislative discussions of this bill have concerned a proposal to regulate hemp production and sales in the state through the implementation of a state hemp program. Debates and controversy centered around whether to define non-psychoactive smokable hemp as marijuana. The concern from law enforcement agencies and prosecutors is that smokable hemp looks and smells like marijuana, creating questions about probable cause searches and prosecutions. The latest version includes a provision to make smokable hemp illegal as of May 1, 2020. WRAL has further coverage​.

Lawmakers this week​ approved and sent HB 370 Require Cooperation with ICE Detainers to Gov. Roy Cooper for signing. The governor quickly vetoed it. The proposal, which has undergone numerous changes since introduction, sought to mandate investigations of legal status for individuals charged with any form of criminal offense. Currently under law, such status investigations occur only under felony charges or certain impaired-driving violations. The bill also, among other things, proposed that confinement facilities allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to interview prisoners in person within 24 hours of such a request. Governor Cooper in his veto message​ called the measures "simply about scoring political points" and said they could weaken law enforcement here by mandating local agencies "do the job of federal agents." House Speaker Tim Moore during the bill's debating urged stakeholders to "put aside politics and do what's right for the public's safety." 

The National League of Cities has opened the application process for leadership positions on its board of directors, committees, councils and constituency groups. "Serving in a leadership position as an NLC Board Member, Officer, Chair, or Member is one of the most rewarding ways for you as a municipal leader to bring your expertise to the service of cities, towns and villages at the national level," the organization says. "By representing your community and contributing your voice, you have the opportunity to impact the direction of the National League of Cities and even national policy." Information on available roles, eligibility and how to apply are on NLC's website​​.

Local governments around the U.S. and world are players in the climate-change dialogue. But, really, with it such a massive and intimidating issue, what can any individual town actually do? Plenty, it turns out, and a formal collaboration of North Carolina cities is out to show how. Municipal Equation​, the League's podcast about cities and towns adapting in the face of change, has returned with a new episode examining how local governments in North Carolina are leading a charge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize other environmental impacts as part of a program called the Cities Initiative, which seeks to remove the barriers to sensible policies and practices. Turns out, a lot of these measures make economic sense, anyway. Listen now

The state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are working to address flood-risk properties in North Carolina. A FEMA press release​ notes the approval of nearly $19 million for the acquisition of 130 residential structures. The plan is to convert them to open spaces "and conserve natural floodplain functions," according to the release. The largest individual expense would be $2.2 million for 11 structures in New Hanover County, one of many eastern or coastal counties that caught some of the worst of 2018's Hurricane Florence. "We are grateful for the support of our FEMA partners as we work together to make North Carolina more resilient in the wake of devastating storms," Gov. Roy Cooper said. "Eliminating flood risks at repetitively damaged properties will help North Carolina continue to rebuild smarter and stronger."