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Commissioners forward six proposals to state-wide association

Rowan County commissioners forwarded a half-dozen different legislative proposals to its state association this week, nearly all of which came from Chairman Jim Sides.
Passed Tuesday, the six proposals vary in topic. They range from eliminating extraterritorial jurisdictions — zones outside of city limits where municipal zoning laws still apply — to forcing banks to cooperate with law enforcement requests to levy unpaid fines.
All proposals were sent to the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, which evaluates each through a multi-faceted process, according to association spokesman Todd McGee.
McGee said each proposal would first be assigned to a topical committee within the association and then be reviewed by a multitude of other groups before being voted on by county representatives in January.
Though all proposals passed, one from Vice Chairman Craig Pierce drew questions from both commissioners and Rowan County residents.
Pierce’s proposal would require bicyclists on state highways and in bike lanes to pay property tax, register bikes and pay liability insurance.
He described the proposal as requiring cyclists to comply with the same rules as motorists.
“We’re taking our state and federal tax dollars and going out here and developing bike lanes for all these people to have places to ride bicycles, which puts an enormous amount of traffic on the highways,” Pierce said. “Yet, they have no liability at all if they damage somebody’s vehicle or even if they run into each other.”
Commissioners Jon Barber and Mike Caskey both questioned Pierce’s proposal. Barber voted against the measure and the final vote was 4-1 for Pierce’s proposal. Caskey voted for the measure despite concerns because the association of county commissioners would study effects of Pierce’s proposal further.
“My concern is that people need a bike because they can’t afford a car or it’s too far to walk,” Caskey said.
Commissioner Chad Mitchell, likewise, had issues with the proposal, but ultimately voted in favor.
“As far as it being vetted, I don’t have a problem with them looking at the idea,” Mitchell said.
Following both commissioners’ comments, Sides said if the commissioners didn’t send any of their ideas into the association, none would be considered.
When Eric Phillips, who owns Skinny Wheels Bike Shop in downtown Salisbury, heard about the proposal, he wrote a lengthy blog post in opposition and talked about the negative effect on cyclists if Pierce’s proposal ultimately makes it through the legislature.
“Bicycles on the road are far less costly to society than motor vehicles, and the cost is not completely covered by taxes,” Phillips said. “The only thing that taxes are going to do is discourage people who can’t afford to drive a car and are riding bicycles for transportation. The guys that are riding out here in pelotons, 50-riders deep are trying to be as considerate as they can, but if they have to pay a tax, they are going to take up that whole width of the road and not expect to hear a word about it.”
None of the other proposals drew significant discussion during the commissioners’ meeting.
Other proposals included:
• A proposal from Sides that would relate to an equitable funding formula for all counties relative to expenses and capital funding for schools. It would also prevent school boards from filing lawsuits against boards of county commissioners.
• A proposal from Sides forcing all banks to cooperate with requests from law enforcement to execute a bank levy. It would change a term in N.C. General Statute 1-359 from “may” to “shall” force cooperation.
Sides said only the State Employees Credit Union doesn’t cooperate with law enforcement requests in Rowan County.
• A proposal from Sides to restore the White Goods Disposal tax and $2 per ton solid waste tax to its original purpose. Currently, Sides said, it’s diverted to the state’s general fund.
The tax applies to refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines and other large appliances.
• A proposal from Sides to enact a maximum 2.5 cent tax upon passage by voters.
The proposal says that the tax, once passed, would have no restriction on use. Sides said the proposal would include taxes that are already in place.
• An elimination of extraterritorial jurisdictions.
Because city planning codes apply to the jurisdictions, Sides said they are an unfair burden on taxpayers who cannot vote for city decision makers.
If any of the measures make it to the N.C General Assembly, Rep. Carl Ford, R-76, said they would be heavily considered but not necessarily more than any other proposal.
The Association of County Commissioners “represents all 100 counties, so if it comes from them, then naturally that means locally elected officials think it’s a good idea,” Ford said. “There are usually hundreds of proposals and they narrow it down to just a few.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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