State legislators have wrapped up another round of business in another, brief continuation of the session they gaveled out of earlier this summer -- this time with a new map of House and Senate districts ordered by the courts. They also completed two veto overrides. The new legislative maps, redone in light of a court finding that 28 of the 170 General Assembly districts were illegal racial gerrymanders, will now go back before the court for review. The Associated Press has full reporting.
Lawmakers adjourned Thursday with a plan to return Oct. 4. A resolution laying out the rules for what they can do at that time allows for redistricting (for public offices including municipal), veto overrides, constitutional amendments, nominations or appointments, actions in response to lawsuits, bills related to election laws, conference report adoptions, local bills that had passed third reading in their originating chamber and remain eligible, impeachment articles, and other matters.
Amid the more publicized actions in the General Assembly this week, lawmakers sent the governor HB 56 Amend Environmental Laws for signing, following the approval of a conference report that include a few items of interest to local governments. The provisions include:
Representative Millis and Senator Cook
Rep. Chris Millis of Pender County has announced his resignation from the General Assembly, effective Sept. 15, news outlets are reporting. They're citing a statement from Millis' website, in which he explains that it's time to focus more on family. "My wife, three children, parents, other immediate family, and my employer have sacrificed so much so I could serve in Raleigh," the statement said. Millis, a Republican from the Hampstead community, entered office in 2013 and most recently had served as chairman of the House's Regulatory Reform Committee and the Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality.
Also this week, Sen. Bill Cook announced a plan to retire. The lawmaker from Beaufort County said he wouldn't seek re-election in 2018 and cited issues with new legislative map changes to his senatorial district. The changes put the four-term Republican in a more Democratic-voting territory. He explained in a statement: "I've tried to be a good servant to the people of Eastern North Carolina. However, the recent redistricting changes have prompted me to reevaluate my commitment to my family. And as much as I love the folks of Eastern North Carolina, I love my family more."
The League would like to wish them and their families the best for the future.
Cue the heartstrings for a new episode of Municipal Equation, the League's biweekly podcast about cities and towns in changing times. On this episode, we look at an amazing local program that could alter the lives of an amazing group of at-risk youths -- by way of video games. So many communities have admirable, longstanding outreach programs for youths in rough neighborhoods, often through traditional outlets like sports leagues or arts programs. But in Raleigh, a partnership between the police department, N.C. State University and a local betterment organization is proving innovative. They're breaking from tradition and teaching kids how to actually code and develop their own video games, giving them not only an increasingly important professional skill (applicable to an array of tech jobs) but also an outlet to express the challenges they go through on a daily basis. It's an inspirational episode with a story that could be duplicated in many communities.
One Municipal Equation listener comments: "I am so proud that our police officers are such innovative problem-solvers, and I'm proud to live in a caring community that was able to help bring this project to life." Listen now and subscribe on iTunes. And please, if you've enjoyed the podcast, a friendly five-star review would help. What's a great story out of your municipality? Pitch it to host/producer Ben Brown.
A new report on local economic characteristics from the National League of Cities (NLC) this week reveals "a dynamic economic landscape that has given rise to five distinct types of local economies: a highly rural cluster; a large central city cluster; and three types of mid-sized economies." And its research cites the N.C. League of Municipalities' Here We Grow website, which compiles user-submitted economic development stories from League-member cities and towns across the state.
The report is titled, "Local Economic Conditions: The Untold Story of the Varied Middle." It provides an in-depth analysis of what drives each type of economy and lays out context explaining the value of municipalities to states and the nation. "For example, in North Carolina, 79 percent of all taxable property lies within cities, 80 percent of all jobs are within city boundaries and 75 percent of all retail sales occur in cities," the NLC report says, citing Here We Grow and League data. "Local leaders know that the unique assets and needs of their cities require customized approaches to economic development,” said NLC CEO Clarence E. Anthony in a press release about the new report. “Our report shows that both promising economic trends and complexities underlie local economies. America’s cities power the national economy, and with an even better understanding of the variance in local economies, city leaders will work together to move the country forward.”
Gov. Roy Cooper has put out a call for more broadband access in North Carolina. “Right now our state faces a digital divide, and future success requires that North Carolinians in both our rural and urban areas have access to broadband internet,” the governor said at the 2017 N.C. Digital Government Summit in Raleigh on Wednesday. He called it an economic development key. Citing the N.C. Department of Information Technology, Governor Cooper's office said there are more than 400,000 households in the state without high-speed Internet access, nearly all of which are in rural areas. A press release provides more information about the governor's remarks, which also included an emphasis on cyber security.