The legislative pace has picked up a bit in Raleigh, with committees taking up more legislation than in the last few weeks. On the other hand, with a new fiscal year just over two weeks away, budget negotiations between the House and Senate continued somewhat slowly.
In local news, Charlotte business leaders and public officials traveled to Pittsburgh, PA this week on the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s annual inter city visit. Conversations with Pittsburgh leaders covered a variety of topics, including economic development, regional transportation, higher education investment, workforce development, arts and culture, economic mobility and more.
State and Legislative Issues
Conferees were appointed on June 6 to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget. Some had been hopeful that it would be a speedy process, but there are several indications that the process is moving slowly. On Tuesday, Speaker Tim Moore (R) announced that there could be a vote on a compromise bill next week. A senior House Appropriations chair laughed out loud at this comment and the Speaker acknowledged that wasn’t a good sign. There are some major differences between the two proposals, one of the largest being pay raises for teachers and other state employees.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it had picked Kansas City, MO as the new home for two of its research centers. The announcement came as a blow to the Research Triangle area, which had been one of three finalists for the centers. The project is expected to involve the movement of approximately 700 federal positions. State and local governments in the Kansas City region offered what the USDA described as “generous relocation incentives packages totaling more than $26 million.”
USDA picks Kansas City over Raleigh – now what? (Triangle Business Journal)
Economic Development Incentives
It’s been six months since Apple announced that it had chosen Austin as the home of a new major facility expected to involve $1 billion in investment and the creation of up to 15,000 jobs. Raleigh had been announced as finalist for the facility. Despite the announcement that the facility is headed to Texas, Wake County and the state have so far refused to release information about their efforts to recruit Apple. State law allows the state and local governments to shield certain information from public records requests while an economic development project is actively being recruited. Several interested parties have questioned whether the state and county have a legitimate interest in withholding the requested information given the Austin announcement. State and county officials have said that they are still actively recruiting Apple for a project code-named “Project Bear” and have withheld information about those recruitment efforts. They have indicated that the announcement of the Austin facility and Project Bear are separate projects, but that the release of information about recruitment efforts would frustrate the purpose for which they were created.
Local Issues – Charlotte
Charlotte City Council Open Seats
Charlotte City Councilman Justin Harlow (D) announced last week that he will not seek re-election to his seat representing District 2. Still in his first term, Harlow cited a business opportunity for his dental practice and spending more time with his family as reasons for stepping away from politics, at least for now. Since Harlow’s announcement, former city councilman and state legislator, Malcolm Graham has declared his intention to run for the district seat.
Harlow becomes the third council member this year to not seek re-election. Councilman Greg Phipps (D) declared earlier this year that he will not seek re-election in District 4, and Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield (D) announced her intentions to pursue an At-Large bid, which will result in an open seat race for District 3 this year.
Local Issues – Raleigh
Wake County Legislative Districts
In an exceedingly rare bipartisan vote, the state House has approved new legislative districts in Wake County. Several districts in Wake County had to be redrawn after a court ruled that changes to the districts in 2017 violated a State Constitution provision that generally limits redistricting efforts to once a decade. The districts were redrawn in 2017 as part of a larger redistricting effort resulting from a court ruling finding that the numerous districts in the state (though none of the ones in question in Wake County) constituted an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The vote in the House was 110-6 in favor of the new districts. The bill must still be approved by the Senate, but traditionally one chamber has deferred to the other chamber with respect to district lines for the other chamber.
North Carolina House approves county’s redrawn districts (Raleigh News & Observer)
- Charlotte city council unanimously passes FY2020 budget (WBTV)
- Raleigh City Council approves $1.04 billion budget with no tax increase (Raleigh News & Observer)
- Gov. Cooper and state reveal new, updated plan to combat the opioid epidemic (Raleigh News & Observer)
- SunTrust/BB&T name: Truist Bank (Charlotte Ledger)
- NC lawmakers see hemp as the state’s next big cash crop. But police are opposed. (Raleigh News & Observer)