Thursday, June 25, 2009

Annexation Legislation Disaster

Well, there's nothing good that can be said about what happened today in the House Judiciary II meeting and the substitute annexation reform bill they unanimously voted for in the end.

I wish there were good things to say. And I wish they would have proven me wrong about how this latest look at annexation reform has turned out so far. But it is turning out just as I predicted when the Legislature embarked on yet another "study" of the annexation laws.

Daren Bakst at John Locke was listening to the meeting and he posted his thoughts about the meeting to the Locker Room Blog. I couldn't describe the meeting better than he did, so here the link:

This newsletter I sent out nearly two years ago, when the Study Committee was formed at the end of the 2007 Session of the General Assembly, seemed appropriate for re-publishing right now:

----- Original Message -----
Cathy Heath
Sunday, November 18, 2007 7:07 PM
Fw: Annexation Study Status


SNCA Update & Action Alert

Annexation Study Committee is Officially Announced

Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Hackney officially announced the formation of the Annexation Study Committee on Friday.

Details of the Committee’s agenda and the members of the Committee were included in the announcement. You can view the Legislative document online at
Below is the list of appointed members:

Representative Bruce Goforth, Co-Chair
Representative Paul Luebke, Co-Chair
Representative Larry R. Brown
Representative Nelson Dollar
Representative Earl Jones
Representative Louis M. Pate, Jr.
Representative Edgar V. Starnes
Representative Fred F. Steen, II
Representative Russell E. Tucker
Representative Trudi Walend
Mr. Douglas Aitken, Moore County
Ms. Judith Welch Wegner, Orange County

Seven of the Commission Legislators sponsored at least one annexation reform Bill. (underlined) Many of them put their name on several of the twenty-four Bills, written to reform forced annexation in various ways, which were introduced last session.

This is an encouraging departure from the numerous past studies of annexation that appointed few reform Legislators to the past committees.
These Legislators are carrying forward the thankless and mostly fruitless hard work of past Legislators who have tried to reform the annexation laws against heavy odds since the laws were enacted 28 years ago.

Two non-legislators were appointed to the committee; one being Mr. Doug Aitken of the Moore County StTOP group, representing his gated community of Pinewild, and who is also President of this same group’s fledgling Statewide Coalition effort, FAC. The Fair Annexation Coalition has lobbied hard since their inception in early 2007 to steer the legislative efforts toward another study. Looks like they’ve succeeded handily.

The second non-legislator on the committee is Professor Judith Wegner, the Burton Craige Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina, School of Law, the school’s former dean, and a former president of the Association of American Law Schools. She teaches State & Local Government Law at UNC, Chapel Hill. Ms.Wegner also put her name on a “friend of the court brief” filed on behalf of the City of New London in the infamous Supreme Court case; Kelo vs. New London, CT.
(Big gun for the cities perhaps?)

It will be interesting to see what does come out of this additional study of NC Annexation Law.
SNCA continues to have concerns, to say the least, about whether another study would achieve anything different than what has resulted from the numerous past studies undertaken.

If history is repeated in this current study, the results could be some minor tweaking of the laws for the affected property owners that wouldn’t amount to much change.
In these studies, the cities have ended up with expansions of their annexation power as a result of concessions they lobby for in the committee meetings. Your tax dollars at work folks.
(see the Resources Page of for the minutes of past studies)

Given the makeup of this new Study Committee, it should be interesting to follow and has the potential produce some surprises.

We will know come May 2008,…..but everyone needs to realize that to those who support true comprehensive reform that restores TO ALL of the people in NC, their right of consent to additional taxes and another layer of government, this study committee that we find ourselves with is going to require active ongoing input and participation.

The facts are this; once this Committee makes its final decision and recommends any changes, the General Assembly will be less open to considering any further needed changes for quite some time. If our game plan was to work on lobbying for incremental changes every legislative session, then another study commission is a major obstacle to that approach.

In order to persuade this committee to reform the law in 2008 in a way that would be acceptable to every affected citizen across NC it is CRITICAL that the many supporters of reform play a part by writing to legislators, attend the meetings at every opportunity, and be ready to present your case against forced annexation to the committee when you are given that chance.
This Committee needs to see the numbers of people who oppose forced annexation and hear their voice about what needs to change!

The broad based support of the goals of StopNCAnnexation over the last several years, you’re your coming to Raleigh for the annual ‘SNCA Rally in Raleigh’, to your timely responses to SNCA’s email update requests for letters and calls to legislators has made the real difference. Your grassroots activism has achieved the original goal of encouraging and motivating many more legislators to take a principled stand against the special interest lobbyists of the NC League of Municipalities. Every year for the last several years the number of introduced Bills has multiplied exponentially. Your years of committed activism has brought us this far. No one would like to see the momentum that has been built over time squandered by a study that achieves nothing comprehensive and substantial. It’s time to “raise the roof”!

We cannot let this study end up derailing the momentum for real democratic reform.
NO MORE “tweaks”!
NO MORE “givebacks” to the cities! The have lobbied for too much power already.
Restore to the people their pre-1959 right to have a say in the decision to be annexed.

I encourage you to stay informed about the Committee meetings and follow their progress closely. If you can in any way manage to attend any of these meetings, it would be a very important and useful thing to do if you care about changing forced annexation.
There will be committee meetings held in various places across the State to give more people the ability to attend. We all do need to take advantage of the opportunities when the meeting is anywhere closer to where you live. Numbers in the audience matters.

In order to keep you informed, I will be attending all of the meetings unless something unavoidable makes it impossible. the SNCA email list and website blog will be updated with a report on what the committee discussed at each meeting.
If you know someone who might not be on the SNCA list who has an interest in the outcome of this study committee, please encourage them to go to the website to sign up for the updates or email me with the request to subscribe.

This would be a good time to write to these Legislators and Speaker Hackney to thank them for the time and effort that they will be putting into a thorough examination of the practice of forced annexation in North Carolina. Let them know that there are many citizens watching what they do with careful interest and are expecting them to listen to the folks on the top of the State’s organizational chart, _ the citizens and voters of NC.

Also a word of thanks to Rep. C. Thomas for his hard work as a freshman legislator in support of reform.

In order to gather a show of widespread grassroots support for reform of annexation that SNCA can take to the Annexation Study Commission, SNCA will be adding to the website a place where you can sign up as a ‘Supporter of Reform’. Please encourage others to add their name to this database as show of grassroots support for more than just a few more tweaks to the law.

And please consider sending a contribution to support the efforts of SNCA in order to help make it possible to travel to the various locations where the meetings might be held, and to keep the StopNCAnnexation website resources online and available to annexation victims and supporters of reform across North Carolina.

The StopNCAnnexation website continues to be #1 on website searches for “annexation, NC”. The site is accessed by around 100 individuals a day who spend time looking for information.
You help to make this possible by financially supporting the expense of making these resources available.

Thank you,

Cathy Heath
Organizer, Chair, researcher, and webmaster