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League Bulletin

December 4, 2015

Filing for the 2016 election opened on Tuesday, and while a number of candidates filed for re-election that day, several legislators recently announced that they would not seek another term in office. The most significant of these was Sen. Tom Apodaca, a key member of the Senate leadership who announced that his current term in office would be his last. In a release announcing his departure entitled "Senate Bull Moose Heading Out to Pasture," Apodaca said, "All good things must come to an end. It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve the people of Western North Carolina in the state Senate." The League will miss working with Sen. Apodaca, and we thank him for his service and wish him all the best in the future.

In addition to Sen. Apodaca, a trio of Representatives recently announced that they would not be seeking re-election. Republicans Roger West and Chris Whitmire, and Democrat Tricia Cotham, all indicated that they would not run for another term in office. The League thanks all three of these Representatives for their hard work while in office and we wish them all of the best going forward.

Among the many candidates who did file for re-election this week was Gov. Pat McCrory, who kicked off his campaign with an event in Kernersville. Also filing for office was former Rep. Dale Folwell, who announced his bid to be the next State Treasurer. A full list of all the candidates who have filed for election thus far can be found here.

The campaign to support passage of a $2 billion state infrastructure bond issue is under way, with supporters unveiling this campaign website this week. The bipartisan campaign has tapped former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr as one of its co-chairs, and plans a substantial effort building both grassroots support for the bonds, as well as utilizing social media to reach out to voters.

In October, League President Lestine Hutchens joined Governor McCrory at a bill ceremony held at Stone Mountain State Park near Elkin, and League staff and municipal officials also attended other signing ceremonies. The bond package would achieve a key League priority of additional infrastructure investments that will benefit municipalities. It contains $310 million for local water and sewer projects.

The bond package will be put before state voters in a March referendum. You can read an op-ed from Justice Orr about the need for the bond plan, which recently appeared in The Charlotte Observer, here.

Five orientation sessions for new mayors kicked off this week  with 23 newly elected mayors attending the initial session in Raleigh on Thursday. Additional sessions of Leading Your Municipal Governing Board: An Orientation for New Mayors are being held in Greenville today, and Asheville, Cornelius and Kernersville next week. The League and the University of North Carolina School of Government are holding the sessions, which include discussions on the role of mayors, the state Open Meetings and Public Records laws, and working with the media.

Although registration for the Orientation for New Mayors is closed, there is still time to register for the Essentials of Municipal Government sessions, also jointly held by the League and School of Government, which begin in January. Based on the lively discussions and response from yesterday's initial mayors' session, we expect the upcoming Essentials of Municipal Government also to provide a great forum for more informative and useful dialogue. You can find information about those sessions, including how to register, here

The N.C. Building Code Council (BCC) will receive public comment on a concept that would limit the size of mega resort homes, if they were to be considered residential and not commercial structures. In a public hearing on Tuesday, December 15, at 9:00 am at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh, the BCC plans to hear input regarding the merits of new code provisions limiting the number of bedrooms for structures regulated as residential rather than commercial buildings. The state's commercial building code requires additional public safety features, such as exit signs and fire sprinklers, that the residential building code does not contain. The BCC does not have a specific proposal on which to comment. Rather, with this public hearing, the Council intends to assess the level of support for such a change to the state building code. For more background on this concept, and for talking points to use in making public comment, please contact Erin Wynia.

More than 30 new laws took effect on Tuesday, including one providing for tougher criminal penalties for graffiti and another that sets up regulations for local law enforcement use of automatic license plate readers. The new law targeted at graffiti would generally lead to a felony charge after someone had two previous graffiti-related convictions. The automatic plate reader law sets up procedures for law enforcement agencies for their use, as well as privacy protections designed to ensure that data collected which is not related to a criminal investigation be destroyed after 90 days.

We on the League's Public & Government Affairs team are pleased to share that our colleague, League Regulatory & Legislative Counsel Sarah Collins, recently gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl. Eller Elizabeth Collins was born on Nov. 19, and both mother and daughter are doing extremely well. Our congratulations go out to Sarah and her husband, Matt. Sarah will be on maternity leave until early next year, but in the meantime you can still email Sarah here.

The state and local government pension funds showed a 3.7 percent quarterly loss for the period ending September 30, a drop largely caused by a decline in the portfolio's publicly traded stocks. State Treasurer Janet Cowell said the pension funds remain solidly positioned after returns averaging roughly 7 percent a year over the past five years. The treasurer pointed to diversified investing in real estate and private equity in helping to mitigate losses by publicly traded stocks in a particularly volatile year for those investments. Read the treasurer's press release regarding the quarterly report here and find the full report here.
State environmental officials say the effects of water-cleaning devices called SolarBees won't be fully known until a four-year pilot project is completed, but a preliminary report issued last month showed little improvement in water quality. Thirty-six of the devices were deployed on Jordan Lake more than a year ago, and legislators have considered proposals to expand their use. Critics say the preliminary report shows what they have been contending all along: That the devices will not substitute for upstream buffers and other regulations intended to protect water quality. The regulations and deployment of the devices are of critical importance to both upstream municipal wastewater discharges along the Haw River basin and to downstream municipalities where more than 300,000 residents rely on Jordan Lake for drinking water. Read media coverage about the report's release here.