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League Bulletin

September 25, 2020

​WHAT HAPPENED: A judge issued an injunction on an early end to the 2020 Census. State officials said they expected more cutbacks on transportation projects. North Carolina became included in the offshore drilling moratorium. And the League invited its members into its policy development process for the next biennium.

WHAT IT MEANS: We have explainers and breakdowns in the Bulletin below, but we ask members to please give special regard the policy development process ahead. It’s different this time. The policy development process is important – it eyes the next biennium of the General Assembly and what the goals and priorities of cities and towns will be.

ON TAP: Members should submit their ideas by Nov. 5. Read on in this bulletin for how.

THE SKINNY: Thanks for reading these Bulletins each week. It’s the best way cities and towns can stay updated on what affects them from the state and federal levels. And speaking of updates, also take note of our updated End of Session Bulletin, capturing everything that happened at the General Assembly this year of interest to municipalities, including actions taken at the session held earlier this month.

​A federal judge has ruled that the Trump administration can’t follow through on plans for an early end to the 2020 Census, noting that doing so could lead to a major undercount. News outlets note that the U.S. Department of Justice is expected to appeal the order, which specifically granted plaintiffs (who included the U.S. Census Bureau) a motion for stay and a preliminary injunction. The New York Times pointed out in its coverage today that stakeholders in an accurate count, like cities and states, have argued that giving the Census Bureau more time in the operation was vital. Census data is used in myriad ways, including funding allocations and the drawing of state and federal electoral districts, the latter of which begins right after the census results are released.

​State experts predict a worsening outlook on transportation projects over the next decade, with less projects likely to receive funding. Analysts with the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) provided the update Monday, explaining that a reduction in anticipated revenues and an increase in costs related to utility relocation and right-of-way acquisition meant a cutback in the number of projects that would likely proceed.

Local government staff working with NCDOT have witnessed this recent and unexpected growth in NCDOT’s estimated costs for both large and small transportation projects in the planning and prioritization process. This new problem adds to the $2 billion shortfall NCDOT has experienced from costs associated with natural disasters and expensive MAP Act legal settlements, as well as still unknown impacts of COVID-19 on revenue. Just this week, a special workgroup of state, local and federal transportation experts that helps with NCDOT’s Strategic Investment Program began reviewing the impacts of this “perfect storm.” There is no doubt that the increasingly dire situation will require adjustments to transportation project plans all across the state, and should include even closer collaboration with local governments (including MPO and RPO staff) to address the challenges facing transportation.

State legislators also heard more Monday about one important front in this “perfect storm” facing transportation: the longer-term declining state transportation revenue picture. This information came from co-chairs of the N.C. FIRST Commission, including former Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane. The Commission has met for nearly two years and explored numerous alternate transportation revenue sources. The co-chairs explained the Commission’s work to a legislative committee dedicated to transportation funding, telling legislators to expect recommendations early next year. Those recommendations could include taxing new services such as ride-sharing, micromobility, or package delivery companies, or raising existing tax rates, they said. In response, legislators discussed the merits of other less traditional funding sources, such as a tax based on vehicle miles traveled. View the full Commission presentation here and see all members of the Commission here, including Banner Elk Mayor Brenda Lyerly and Charlotte Council Member Julie Eiselt.

We’re beginning our legislative police development process for the 2020-21 biennium, and it’s a little different this time around. How does it work? Earlier this year, the League's Board of Directors revised the member-driven process that forms our organization's legislative policy positions—their goal is to expand the process to receive as much input from all of our municipal officials that reflects the diversity of our members’ opinions and circumstances. This member-driven process coincides with the start of each new legislative biennium. During even-numbered years, members come together to share their legislative goals and priorities. The basic process includes the following steps:

  1. Members submit their ideas for legislative policy goals. Ideas should fit into the League’s overarching policy focus areas, be actionable and be applicable to cities and towns statewide.
  2. The Policy Committee considers all submitted ideas through the lens of the Core Municipal Principles and policy focus areas and submits its suggestions to the Board of Directors.
  3. After reviewing and refining the Policy Committee’s suggestions, the NCLM Board of Directors presents the goals to the entire membership for a vote.
  4. Each municipality casts a single vote on the policy goals and the results are used by League staff, members and legislative leaders to advance the agenda together.
Submit your ideas by Nov. 5. Ideas may be submitted in writing via our online form or can be submitted during one of our live events (more information below). 

When brainstorming appropriate goals, consider ideas that are shared among North Carolina municipal goals. Ideas should also be “actionable," meaning there is a reasonable path for action in the state legislative or regulatory process. Local bills or very specific ideas that impact only one member municipality are not appropriate.

Registration info is coming soon for Goal Planning Sessions. For now, save the date. We will be hosting six live web-based and two in-person meetings to give members the opportunity to share and discuss their legislative policy ideas with each other and League staff in addition to the ability to submit goal ideas online. Mark your calendar to attend one of the following webinars or in-person events. Choose the date and format that works best for you; each session offers the same opportunity to share. 

Live Webinars
  • Monday, Oct. 12, 10-11:15 a.m.                                  
  • Tuesday, Oct. 13, 1-2:15 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 16, 10-11:15 a.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 16, 1-2:15 p.m.
  • Monday, Oct. 19, 10-11:15 a.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 20, 10-11:15 a.m.
In-Person Meetings
  • Wednesday, Oct. 14, 10-11:45 a.m. BB&T Ballpark Trust Stadium | 951 Ballpark Way, Winston-Salem, NC 27101
  • Thursday, Oct.15, 10-11:45 a.m. Segra Stadium |  460 Hay Street, Fayetteville, NC 28301

​Local parks and recreation programs may now apply for grants to operate remote learning programs while schools are meeting virtually. The N.C. General Assembly allocated $20 million earlier this month for this program. In addition to parks and recreation programs, other local non-profits such as YMCA’s and Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs may apply for grants of up to $100,000. Due to an end-of-year deadline imposed by Congress to spend these funds, turnaround on the grant applications is quick, and organizations face an Oct. 5 deadline to apply for the grants. To qualify for the grants, entities must either have a memorandum of understanding with their local public school system, or they must register with the N.C. Department of Health & Human Services, which has not yet made public registration details. Read more about the grant opportunity here.

​You’ll recall the recent release of our annual End of Session Bulletin, with a promise to issue an updated version with information from the additional period of lawmaking in General Assembly earlier this month. Here is that update: 2020 End of Session Bulletin.

This version also takes a look at NCLM Advocacy Goal Achievements and an index of internally-link bills (Appendix I) to help you quickly find individual bill summaries. We hope that you find this guide to the 2020 legislative session helpful in understanding legislation that affected cities and towns.


​The Trump administration has included North Carolina in its moratorium on new leasing for offshore drilling for oil and gas, effective for 12 years. U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis said he spoke with President Trump and got the confirmation this week. “Over the last several years, I have listened to mayors and elected officials from Brunswick to Currituck County and have been adamant that any decision on new energy production off North Carolina's coast should be made with the input of our local communities,” Senator Tillis said in a news release. In 2018, the League filed comments of opposition to North Carolina’s inclusion in the 2019-24 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. In those comments, we requested that no further action related to seismic testing and oil exploration or drilling take place in the Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina’s coast. Our arguments recognized the importance of the coastal economy and were in support of the municipalities that had formally opposed offshore drilling.