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GREENSBORO SENDS ITS LEGISLATIVE AGENDA TO RALEIGH

by Whitney Kenerly

whitney@yesweekly.com

The City of Greensboro has sent a wish list of items to be discussed in the state capital this spring.

The North Carolina General Assembly convened its Short Session on May 14. Prior to this session, municipalities may submit written support or objection to topical legislation. Greensboro’s City Council voted on a Legislative Agenda on May 7 to be sent to the General Assembly during the Short Session in Raleigh.

An item is more likely to be including in the short session if all state representatives and state senators representing a municipality unanimously agree on it. This is because during the Short Session legislators typically only deliberate non-controversial items While Greensboro City Council tends to be moderate to progressive, Greensboro is represented be a Republican majority of five legislators who outnumber the four Democrats.

New items are also unlikely to be introduced during the short session. Greensboro has included a few new items to its legislative agenda, but Mayor Nancy Vaughan is optimistic that much of it will be heard in Raleigh.

“We don’t want to put things on the agenda that we know aren’t going to be adopted,” said Mayor Vaughan Some of the items on Greensboro’s legislative agenda are in protest to legislation that would limit the municipality’s power.

Greensboro is opposed to a bill that would limit the power and authority municipalities in that state have on how to regulate tree-trimming practices. Greensboro has been trying to manage tension from neighborhoods frustrated by tree-trimming practices of Duke Energy. A Tree Ordinance Review Committee was formed in January 2013 to address these concerns.

City Council is also opposed to statewide tax reforms that would potentially decrease City Government’s revenue by $1.3 million a year.

The legislation would cap privilege license tax rates at $100 and eliminate gross receipts tax while expanding the right of municipalities to collect the tax from businesses such as banks, medical offices and law firms. If enacted, the proposed legislation would take effect in 2015.

Greensboro has submitted written support for a controversial bill that would allow publication of notices in daily newspapers, weekly newspapers or on the Internet.

Opposition to the bill is centered on the need for transparency. The bill stipulates that public notices would be accessible through a government website. Councilwoman Sharon Hightower voiced concern at the May 7 City Council meeting regarding the bill for those who still do not have convenient Internet access.

“What about people who still depend on traditional print for this information?” asked Hightower.

The North Carolina Press Association has made it a priority to oppose this legislation. In a press release the association stated, “Public notices need to be public. Putting them on an obscure government web site – and most are – suggest the public has no right to know what the government is planning.”

Greensboro City Council is also encouraging the state to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage in the state. Council members Zack Matheny and Tony Wilkins voted against this item.

Wilkins stated, “The McCrory team is working on a plan that I think is worth waiting for.”

In response to the votes of Matheny and Wilkins at the City Council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson joked, “You’re gonna die and come back poor and need it!” Annexation is another hot button issue that the City of Greensboro has included in the legislative agenda.

Greensboro is requesting that areas within a city’s borders or within a city’s urban loop be subject to municipal initiated annexation without a referendum. This item is in response to a 2011 revision of the state annexation law that left large areas within the borders of municipalities in the state unable to be annexed with initiation by the City.

“Those are areas that are typically taking advantage of our resources,” said Mayor Vaughan. “So we would like for those people to pay their fair share” The Greensboro Partnership also worked with the City of Greensboro on the Legislative Agenda and listed the completion of Greensboro’s Urban Loop as a top priority. Four sections remain and the City of Greensboro and Greensboro Partnership are requesting that the state maintain the original 2020 completion timeline.

The General Assembly Short Session traditionally lasts around five weeks. After the City submitted the legislative agenda, it is now in the hands of the state’s General Assembly to determine what will be considered for discussion in Raleigh.

“They’ve got a lot of work to consider in those five weeks time so I hope that our items will get the attention that they deserve,” said Mayor Vaughan. !

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