Thursday, March 15, 2007

Annexation Legislation Update

On Wednesday, March 14th, one annexation reform Bill was discussed by the House Local Government I Committee.
The Bill was Rep. Trudy Walend's local Bill, HB 315, 'Polk Annexation'.

This Bill would prohibit any municipality located in a neighboring County from extending ETJ into or annexing land in Polk Co.
Lake Lure in Rutherford Co. is close enough to perhaps attempt this.

Rep. Walend presented her Bill to the Committee and answered questions from Committee members. She did an excellent job of addressing any concerns that were raised about the Bill, and concerns were definitely raised.

Rep. Walend expressed some surprise at the somewhat last minute opposition voiced about the Bill because she had already discussed the Bill with two other area Representatives and they both had indicated that they were not opposed to the action she was taking.

The front row of spectators sitting in on the meeting was filled with several employees of the NC League of Municipalities and their supporters, including a representative from the NC Metropolitan Coalition, a representative from the NC Association of County Commissioners.
Also sitting with them were representatives for NC Schools.

The Polk Annexation Bill was not the only Bill of concern to the League and friends at this meeting. They were also there to voice issues they had with a Bill introduced by Rep. Cleveland that would tighten up the requirements for governmental bodies regarding notification of special meetings. (HB311) It's a good Bill that would bring much needed reform to meetings notification.
The NCLM had something to say about the problems they had with tighter requirements.

The League lobbyists did not comment about the Polk Annexation Bill. They didn't have to.
Besides the fact that all Legislators know full well that "the League opposes these Bills" when it comes to any that might limit the power enjoyed by cities today, it was my impression that a few of the Legislators on the Committee were doing the talking for them.

The three that expressed the negative comments and concerns were Linda Coleman, Pryor Gibson, and Van Braxton. Rep. Coleman did her best to find problems with limiting ETJ and annexation across County lines and Rep. Gibson was worried about making the Lake Lure Council angry. Rep. Coleman and Braxton raised the spector of how passing a local Bill would start a precedent for other Counties to do the same thing.

Rep. Walend had researched this legislation very well and she quickly responded to that concern by pointing out that there were already other Counties that had this limitation in place. It would not be breaking any new ground to pass this Bill for Polk.

This Bill is far from being passed though. The Committee decided to take no vote on the Bill at that meeting. They decided to have some Committee members work with Rep. Walend on amending the Bill to try and address some of the concerns.

Citizens are going to HAVE to make themselves heard in Raleigh about these annexation reform Bills. With all of the changes that have taken place in the Legislature due to the scandals involving the former leadership, this year is the citizen's opportunity to speak up for change.

There are numerous Annexation Bills that are calling for reform, and they are not being acted upon as quickly as the equally numerous Bills that have been submitted to extend the boundaries of many North Carolina cities. The annexation Bills that expand the cities are sailing through without a problem.

If the Annexation Reform Bills are ever going to get anywhere in the Legislature, this is the year that many, many letters and calls from citizens all across NC just might get some results.

Another way to make the voice for reform heard in Raleigh would be to make plans to clear your schedule for May 9th this year and come to Raleigh to be part of the Citizen Rally for Reform.
This will be a daytime rally. Details will be posted to the website as the date gets closer.

"Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man."-- Thomas Jefferson (Letter to John Cartwright, 5 June 1824)

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