WILMINGTON — The year is coming to an end and lawmakers in Raleigh have completed their short session with little fanfare in 2018, in large part thanks to a heated election season. Tony McEwen, the City of Wilmington’s legislative affairs assistant, provided an explanation of how this year’s state legislature will affect Wilmington during his annual legislative wrap-up.
During Monday’s City Council agenda briefing McEwen gave a presentation to Council highlighting the different aspects of this year’s legislature and what it means for the city.
“It’s always promised that a short session is going to be short but it rarely is, but this year it was. It went from mid-May to late-June,” McEwen said.
Because the session was so short, it did not allow for city representatives to do a whole lot, but it also protected city interests because very few bills were taken up.
One of the few things that did make it into this year’s budget was an amendment that allows cities to contribute to public education and schools.
“There was a provision that was previously unannounced that found its way into the budget that would allow cities to contribute to public schools in their cities,” McEwen said.
This provision allows school boards to directly request funding from municipalities. McEwen attributes this to legislators from larger cities that were critical of Republican lawmakers.
The state income tax cap at 7-percent that was a constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot could also have an impact on municipalities in the state. If times were to get tough and services were to be cut at the state level, the fixed tax cap could potentially lead to cities being responsible for previously provided services, he said.
The City of Wilmington has been a vocal proponent for reviving the film industry in the state.
“It’s been another year of incremental positive steps for film. The state budget reduced the minimum investment needed to qualify for the film grant. In addition to that they increased the maximum grant that can be received by both TV series, TV movies and movies in general,” McEwen said.
This year’s budget called for $31 million in funding for the film industry — not nearly the amount that it used to be in the state, more than $100 million.
One of the biggest factors affecting film is still House Bill 2, McEwen said.
“I think that that is still scaring away project here in this state,” he said.
While progress to get the state back to its previous attractiveness for film is slow, McEwen said there is positive progress being made.
“As I understand it we have enough money there. I think you know just as well as I do that a grant is not as attractive as a credit and the HB2 thing is probably the most impactful to the industry. But I think we hit rock bottom as far as policy goes and we are kind of taking incremental steps from there,” he said.
Coastal infrastructure is something that the state has never had major state-wide plans for, but this year that changed.
“For the first time the state now has a framework and repository for funds — what they don’t have is actual funding. There are currently efforts underway to arrange for a funding source to go into this fund. The General Assembly did transfer $5 million from another fund for coastal storm damage reduction needs,” McEwen said.
McEwen said he expects to see more funding allocated for coastal infrastructure in the near future.
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