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League Bulletin

September 20, 2019

​​WHAT HAPPENED: Lawmakers brought out new state legislative district maps (following that court decision calling the earlier maps too partisan-biased). Medicaid expansion returned to discussion. Funding concerns at the N.C. Department of Transportation found public attention (and a response coalition; read on for details). And the budget stalemate, yes, continued.  

WHAT IT MEANS: A lot at once, partly what led Senate leader Phil Berger to announce that his chamber wouldn't be back for voting until after Sept. 30. The Insider State Government News Service quoted him calling recent times "fairly intense" with all the redistricting work. House Speaker Tim Moore later said his chamber too was taking a breather.  

ON TAP: We're still in the "long" legislative session, with a number of big bills, like the farm act and for budget surplus rebates to taxpayers, still on the table and a full state budget outstanding. 

THE SKINNY: Meanwhile, Gov. Roy Cooper has been signing bills into law, including five last week that included a couple of those "mini" budgets and a measure to move on untested rape kits. Details in this Bulletin. 

While news of funding suspense at the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has communities concerned about the state's current infrastructure and future needs, the League has joined a coalition seeking improvement. "North Carolina’s competitive economy depends on the health of our state’s transportation infrastructure," said NC Chamber President and CEO Gary Salamido in an open letter recruiting for the NC Can't Afford to Stop coalition, which by Friday morning had almost 100 prominent members from the worlds of business, economy and advocacy. The League was among them.  

The NC Chamber explains the problem on its website: Recent storms like Hurricanes Florence and Michael had costly tolls on infrastructure; meanwhile, NCDOT has had to pay millions of dollars in Map Act-related damages. "Now, the NCDOT is dangerously close to dropping below a legislative cash floor balance (of 7.5 percent) that our leaders agreed upon in order to be good stewards of the people’s dollars," the Chamber says, emphasizing that NCDOT won't be able to enter into new contracts if funds fall below the floor. "...already, it has suspended preliminary engineering for approximately 900 transportation projects across the state." 

NC Can't Afford to Stop's webpage focuses on the stakes and solutions. "To move people and goods safely and efficiently, North Carolina must have a transportation network that can meet the demands of its rapidly increasing population," it says. "Predictable, consistent funding is a cornerstone of this process so that employers can hire and retain the employees needed to deliver the results their business is contracted to provide." More information is online at​.

The Board of Directors of the N.C. League of Municipalities this week approved a resolution supporting Duke Energy’s goals of carbon reduction in the state, including a commitment to net-zero carbon emissions in North Carolina and five other states by 2050. 

In approving the resolution, board members noted that Duke Energy’s carbon reduction goals advance broader and similar goals of North Carolina municipalities to cut carbon emissions through their own operations. 

NCLM President William Pitt, a Council Me​​mber from Washington, noted that local governments across the state and nation have recognized the need for aggressive plans to reduce carbon emissions in order to be environmentally responsible.​

The resolution praises Duke Energy for a commitment to deep carbon reductions “while continuing to provide electric service that meets the state’s mandates – and the expectations of North Carolina citizens and communities – for reliability, affordability and environmental responsibility, including protections for low-income customers.” 

Duke Energy this week announced an updated climate strategy of net-zero carbon emissions from electricity generation by 2050 and the acceleration of a nearer-term goal of cutting emission by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The company has already reduced carbon emissions by 31 percent since 2005.​

Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law this week a small stack of bills including a disaster recovery measure and one to thin the backlog of untested rape kits in North Carolina. Meanwhile, a few other bills presented to the governor this week await consideration, including SB 691 Emergency Operating Funds for Utilities. That piece, sent to Governor Cooper's desk Wednesday​, is meant to help small towns whose aging water and sewer systems need stability under market, environmental and population-change pressures on them today. The bill would allow the use of emergency state reserve funding for deficits. Systems eligible would have to have been taken over by the Local Government Commission or had their operating authority or government lose its charter.  

The governor signed HB 29 Standing Up for Rape Victims Act of 2019 on Wednesday to, per the bill's longer title, "require testing of all sexual assault examination kits." It provides $3 million in nonrecurring funds for this and next fiscal year for a $6 million total to move on those untested exam kits. Governor Cooper also signed SB 429 Disaster Recovery - 2019 Budget Provisions, which makes transfers, appropriations, reversions and reallocations to the state's Hurricane Florence recovery fund and other relief or resiliency work. "As we push for federal changes to streamline disaster recovery money coming from Washington, our state disaster funding is more important than ever," Governor Cooper commented. 

In other news, Medicaid expansion -- something Governor Cooper demanded in the state budget -- was back in talks, though in a different form. HB 655 NC Health Care for Working Families is a Republican-sponsored bill to "provide health coverage to residents of North Carolina" and "to establish the North Carolina Rural Access to Healthcare Grant Program." The bill includes "whereas" clauses that point out the number of North Carolinians without health insurance (more than 1 million), which they may not be able to afford, and that the state is incurring the costs of caring for them. The bill is in the House Rules Committee after a favorable report from the chamber's Health Committee this week. WRAL has more details​ about the bill's functions. 

New maps for the state's House and Senate districts won the chambers' approvals this week to replace versions that the court said were built on excessive partisan bias. The Senate's map is SB 692; the House's is HB 1020​. A panel of judges recently ruled that the districts, as redrawn two years ago, were in violation of the North Carolina Constitution and needed fixing by a deadline that arrived Wednesday. The court will determine whether the new maps meet its standards. The Associated Press quoted Senate leader Phil Berger's optimism that they will indeed: "We are optimistic that the way we've handled this is not just consistent with what the court directed us to do, but (was) within the spirit of what the court wanted us to do," he said. Redistricting bills don't require the governor's blessing. Lawsuits and changes over the federal and state electoral lines in North Carolina have been a fact since the Republican-controlled legislature initially drew them almost a decade ago. Similar legal battles occurred in the early 2000s after the Democratic-controlled legislature drew the district lines. It's a constitutional requirement that the legislature revise the maps after every decennial census, the next of which is just around the corner in 2020.

The deadline to apply for the National League of Cities Board of Directors is Tuesday, Sept. 24. "To be eligible to serve on the NLC Board you must be an elected official of a member city, or a chief executive officer of a state municipal league," NLC explains. "If you are an elected official, you must remain in office throughout your term on the board. You may apply to serve on the board even if you will have to run for reelection during your board term." Board members serve two-year terms. A PDF has complete details for submitting applications.