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League Bulletin

November 30, 2018

WHAT HAPPENED: As the 2017-2018 General Assembly returned to Raleigh for one last round of legislating, hundreds of municipal officials from around the state gathered at the League's Advocacy Goals Conference in Raleigh to set important, new legislative priorities.
WHAT IT MEANS: Our cities and towns decided on a diverse slate of goals, which we'll list later in this Bulletin, for the new legislative biennium that starts in 2019 amid a dynamically different House and Senate roster. With those changes coming, now marks the last opportunity the current legislature has to move to on its own priorities, and a top focus so far has been the particulars of the constitutional amendments that voters approved at the polls recently. 
ON TAP: But lawmakers have taken up other matters as well, including hurricane relief and economic development. They plan to carry their work into next week and are not limited in scope. 
THE SKINNY: How long they're in session is not entirely certain, but they're likely to keep it open for 10 calendar days following the final vote. That would allow legislative leaders to address any vetoes from the governor while the veto-proof majority still exists.

Member cities and towns of the North Carolina League of Municipalities have approved priorities for the 2019-20 legislative biennium, focusing on transportation and broadband investment, as well as solutions to create more affordable housing. In all, more than 200 municipal officials representing over 100 member cities and towns approved 17 legislative goals during Thursday’s Advocacy Goals Conference held in Raleigh. The approval of these legislative priorities marked the culmination of months of work by the League’s three policy committees, as well as the organization’s Board of Directors, as municipal officials considered, debated and refined dozens of proposed goals submitted by member cities and towns. "This effort and this process is so important because it allows us to speak with a unified voice," said NCLM President and Jacksonville Mayor Pro Tem Michael Lazzara. "By working as one, and speaking as one, we advance all. And it is that process – coming together today and working on these goals collectively through our representative committees – that gives these goals power."

The 2019-20 legislative goals: 

- Seek legislation to ensure that the amount of Powell Bill funds appropriated by the state are sustained and distributions to municipalities are increased and grow over time. 

- Seek legislation to boost funding availability for public transit and transportation programs. 

- Seek legislation that provides additional tools and financial resources for addressing the affordable housing crisis. 

- Seek legislation granting local governments the authority to build broadband infrastructure and to partner with private internet service providers using long-term infrastructure leases. ​

- Seek legislation to alter the current statutes governing distribution of local sales taxes by requiring a one-year delay in implementation when a county or the legislature changes its method of distributing sales tax revenue. 
- Seek legislation to provide municipalities with authority for additional locally-controlled revenue options and flexibility in the use of those options, including – but not limited to – city-only sales tax, city occupancy taxes, prepared meals taxes, and impact fees for transportation.

- Seek legislation that supports adequate, fair school funding between state and county in all school systems across the state by repealing municipal authority to fund schools. 

- Support legislation which defends the fiscal integrity of the Local Government Employees’ Retirement System and its defined benefit structure, promotes reasonable pension reforms that are prospective in nature, and meets the needs of local employees, employers, and retirees.  

- Support legislation that will provide sufficient funding at the state level for incentive programs such as a competitive film incentive program, state historic preservation tax credits, and the Main Street Solutions fund necessary to grow jobs and the economy.  

- Seek legislation to provide additional grant funding to municipalities for equipment and facility needs for public safety (fire, police, ems).
- Oppose legislation that shifts to taxpayers the costs of overseeing development and completing development-initiated infrastructure. 

- Support measures, such as additional funding, to enhance cities’ ability to meet federal and state stormwater control mandates. 

- Oppose legislation that interferes with local management or ownership of local assets. 

- Seek changes to the law governing the disclosure and release of law enforcement recordings to clarify that disclosure to a municipal manager is allowed and to allow disclosure to a city or town council or citizen review board in a closed session and under confidentiality agreements.

- Only support legislation providing additional post-employment benefits to public employees that includes a funding mechanism to fully support the cost and liability of the benefit and support the study of existing post-employment benefits, such as special separation allowance programs, to ensure that the liability of providing the benefit isn’t solely borne by the last employer. 

- Support legislation to revise the current methods of determining economic needs that are used by the state to allocate funds so that additional areas of the state in need may benefit from increased economic development, jobs, and see more entrepreneurial innovation. 

- Support a system of spirituous liquor sales that maintains a local referendum about the decision to sell, preserves local control over the location and density of outlets, and preserves the local revenue stream.

The hundreds of municpial officials from across North Carolina who gathered in Raleigh on Thursday for the League's 2018 Advocacy Goals Conference were chiefly focused on setting out up-to-date priorities for the next legislative biennium. But attendees also benefited from the words of special guest speakers including Gov. Roy Cooper, State Treasurer Dale Folwell and former National League of Cities President Melodee Colbert-Kean.
Governor Cooper said he looks forward to working with the 2019-20 legislature and shined light on issues already uniting the parties for good outcomes. He kept much of his speech to League members focused on the heartbreaking aftermath of recent the hurricanes, especially Florence, that have led the General Assembly this session to minimize politics and appropriate recovery funds for the betterment of North Carolina. Governor Cooper also praised municipal officials for being on the front lines of hurricane response and recovery. He also endorsed the idea that municipalities need more flexibility to set their own course. “I am not just saying this. You will see this in my actions,” the governor said.​
Colbert-Kean is a member of the Joplin, Mo., City Council and served as mayor during the devastating 2011 EF-5 tornado that took 161 lives and forever changed the city. Addressing cities and towns here, she stressed the importance of local-level initiative to get recovery conversations started and on the right foot.
Treasurer Folwell addressed his efforts to ensure the fiscal integrity of the state and local government pension system. He told municipal officials that he has been committed to bringing down investment fees and combating fraud, saying that these initiatives are particularly important in light of investment returns that have not kept pace with projections for the last two decades. The League would like to thank its special guests for their time and attention to municipal issues.

The General Assembly is back in Raleigh. On a continuance of its 2018 session, lawmakers gaveled in on Nov. 27 with previously announced plans to write legislation that would enable and set out the provisions of constitutional amendments approved by voters in the recent election. Those include a voter ID requirement, and a bill setting out details for that requirement won approval in the Senate on Thursday. The bill, now awaiting House approval, requires photo identification that could, among many options, be a card issued by the county elections board. The bill lists all acceptable forms, and they include an employee ID card issued by local government, if it meets certain standards.
Lawmakers in this lame-duck session aren't limited on the kinds of legislation to move. With unanimous approval, the chambers on Thursday sent Gov. Roy Cooper a $300 million package of additional hurricane recovery aid. News reports say the governor is expected to sign the bill, which includes beach renourishment funding and loans for local governments.
Legislative players and observers are exchanging information at a fast pace in terms of other matters lawmakers might bring to the floor, and in some cases rumors and misinformation enter the broader dialogue. A bill filed in the Senate proposing to eliminate certain state boards -- including some that interact with local governments -- set off alarms, erroneously, on the belief that associated funding was in jeopardy. As attendees of the League's Advocacy Goals Conference heard on Thursday, it's not the case that funds are slated for elimination along with these boards. Read on for a more thorough explanation of the bill and what it would do.

A Senate bill​ introduced earlier this week proposed elimination of numerous state boards, including the appointed boards that oversee grants made from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) and the Parks & Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF). Importantly for cities and towns that apply for these grants, the bill did not eliminate the funds themselves. Further, in the case of CWMTF, the bill contained an allowance for the grant program to continue to be administered by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The proposal stemmed from a long-running dispute, over control of certain state boards, between the executive branch and legislative branch. That dispute dated back to litigation begun under former Gov. Pat McCrory, and continued this fall with a constitutional amendment initiative that failed to gain voters’ approval. The bill did not advance or receive a hearing this week, and no further action on the bill has yet been scheduled by the Senate.

North Carolina League of Municipalities Executive Director Paul Meyer is one of four state municipal league leaders to join the National League of Cities' Board of Directors. The announcement came at NLC's recent CitySummit​ in California that also highlighted Jacksonville City Council Member Angelia Washington's selection for a two-year term on the national board. The two North Carolinians join a diverse cross-section of the U.S. and now have Gary, Ind., Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson in the role of president. “At a time marked by division, it is more important than ever for city leaders to come together for the good of our residents, and for the future of our country,” said Freeman-Wilson. “It is an honor to lead the National League of Cities as we raise our collective voice on the issues that matter to the residents in our communities. Together, we can make real change happen in our nation’s cities.”

The League is proud to debut its Community-Led Broadband online resource center today. This webpage is the go-to for anyone wishing to learn more about community-led broadband efforts, and it comes a day after municipal officials prioritized a goal of changing state law to clearly allow local governments to build broadband infrastructure and lease it to private partners. Visitors to the resource center can orient themselves to the issue by watching a “Broadband Basics” webinar. They can also read the League’s white paper, “Leaping the Digital Divide,” and listen to a podcast that explores the limitations of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data collected on broadband service in the Municipal Equation podcast episode, “The Map is Wrong.” Visit the Community-Led Broadband online resource center​ today and get up to speed on broadband in your community.