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League Bulletin

November 3, 2017

State economic development professionals should seek to partner more with local officials on economic development, legislators urged on Thursday. Meeting for the first time this interim, members of an economic development oversight panel suggested that both state commerce department and economic development leaders should look for ways to increase partnerships and assistance in local communities. "Economic development does require local leadership," said committee co-chair Rep. Susan Martin of Wilson. "We at the state then come in as partners, but it starts with local leadership."

Committee co-chair Sen. Harry Brown of Jacksonville also urged outreach by state officials to local governments, particularly in rural areas, where he said a limited local capacity to focus on job recruitment has left those areas further behind. In response, state officials pointed to existing technical assistance services offered to local governments within the state's eight prosperity zones, as well as the services of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, which promotes existing business-ready sites and tourism destinations.

In their remarks, legislators also encouraged local officials to work cooperatively across jurisdictional boundaries to grow jobs. Rep. Steve Ross of Burlington touted a recent distribution center opening in his district that would not have happened, he said, if the cities of Graham and Mebane had not partnered to provide the site water and sewer service. Representative Martin added that the committee may want to recommend that state grant programs give priority to projects submitted by regional partners.

Cities and towns work constantly to create places and provide infrastructure that attracts businesses, jobs, and residents to the state. They catalogue those efforts with the Here We Grow campaign, which features dozens of local economic development stories across the state. Find your city’s story on the map, or submit a story everyone needs to know.

A proposed, major revamp of the U.S. tax code with reduced corporate and personal income tax rates was unveiled in the U.S. House this week, supported in part by rollbacks and eliminations of tax programs valued by local government. The National League of Cities (NLC) is urging local officials to contact their members of Congress to oppose bill. The U.S. House's Ways and Means Committee unveiled the plan on Thursday with, among other things, proposed repeals of the federal historic tax credit and the new markets tax credit, despite their positive returns for the economy. It would also reduce the state and local tax, or SALT, deduction. The tax-exempt status for municipal bonds was left intact.

NLC in a statement said it welcomed hard work on tax reform and simplification. "But, as city leaders, we see this bill as yet another attempt to limit local control and pass the cost of action in Washington onto city halls throughout the nation," said NLC President Matt Zone.

Ways and Means is expected to begin consideration of the plan on Monday toward a vote that would advance it to the full House. According to NLC, that could create a timeline of full House consideration during the week of Nov. 13, the same time that the Senate Finance Committee is expected to consider its own, more moderate tax reform plan. Reconciliation between the House and Senate versions could unfold in December, if that schedule holds, with a compromise version on the president's desk by the end of the year. But that timeline might also be highly ambitious, given the complicated nature of a tax-code overhaul, NLC notes.

Route Fifty reported on reactions to the plan on Thursday. A tax credit breakdown of the bill lists and explains the various programs impacted. The Associated Press has additional reporting. Some North Carolina municipalities are also weighing in.

A federal court this week said it will move ahead on plans to redraw a number of state legislative districts with the hand of a "special master," in this case an expert not employed by the General Assembly. It follows objections from Republican legislative leaders who asked, to the court's denial, to handle the new redraw in-house. For background, the court believes the legislature racially gerrymandered its 2011 state House and Senate maps and ordered revisions. The legislature created new maps in August, but not to the court's satisfaction. The court, wanting "constitutionally adequate" districts in place for the 2018 election, in turn called on the special master to step in. News coverage from the Associated Press explains the development in detail.

League members and Duke Energy officials met in Raleigh on Monday to discuss issues surrounding the modernization of municipal street lighting. The discussion included information regarding the current rate cases in both the Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Carolinas territories as they relate to lighting and an update on new products including lighting control technology for LEDs. Participants also received information from League Legislative Counsel Erin Wynia on local regulation of small cell wireless systems. The meeting served as a continuation of discussions that began after the League, in 2013, intervened in the Duke Energy Carolinas rate case before the N.C. Utilities Commission. Presentations from the meeting can be viewed here and here. If interested in options for converting existing street lights to LED or options for new streetlight installations, please contact Shelly Phillips with Duke Energy. If you have questions regarding these meetings, contact League Legislative and Regulatory Counsel Sarah Collins.

Recommendations for fighting the opioid epidemic are in the president's hands. Gov. Roy Cooper, a member of the President's Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, said this week he voted to send the commission's report to the White House with a "robust set" of recommendations including tougher penalties for traffickers, the adoption of additional detection technologies, and the prevention of the "doctor shopping" that abusers use to gain continued access to opioids. "The opioid crisis is real," the governor said. "People's lives and our economy depend on strong and decisive action. In North Carolina, we have seen a 1000% increase in opioid-related deaths since 1999." Cities and towns across North Carolina are individually taking steps to combat the problem as well. Read the full report.

A new report that gauges where cities are in the innovation economy has found that a majority of U.S. cities are open to partnerships with "sharing-economy" companies, and that more are using or considering using drones in municipal operations. The report, "Cities and Innovation Economy: Perceptions of Local Leaders" from the National League of Cities, also found that 66 percent of cities have invested in some form of smart city technology. "City leaders are eager to embrace new technologies and services to improve the lives of their residents,” said NLC CEO Clarence E. Anthony in a news release about the study. "Cities are where good ideas turn into action. There are no better examples of this than with the growth of the sharing economy in cities and the increased use of smart city technology. But with any new innovation, cities must ensure they are deployed equitably and safely.”

Additional dates and locations have been added in a program for 2020 Census preparation and accuracy, but a deadline is ahead in December. The Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program is the once-in-a-decade chance for local governments to double-check and verify the accuracy of the Census address list for their area. An accurate list means a more-accurate Census, which is important for communities' access to various funding and planning resources. A George Washington University study, for instance, found that North Carolina received more than $1,600 per person in federal funds in fiscal year 2015 based on Census data. LUCA participation may maximize the investment in your community. The deadline for LUCA registration is Dec. 15. Anyone planning to attend should complete this document.