New laws in effect July 1 address mo-peds, gas tax, health

Published 6:55 am Friday, July 1, 2016

RALEIGH (AP) — Be sure you’re covered if you’re puttering around on a moped. Also get it registered on time or you could be fined. But at least it should be slightly cheaper when you fill up at the pump.

Several changes covering four- and two-wheeled motor vehicles are scheduled to take effect Friday. They’re among about a dozen laws approved last year or this year that go into effect with the start of state government’s new fiscal year July 1.

Here’s a look at some changes:

Gasoline tax

The state’s motor fuels tax will drop by a penny from 35 cents per gallon to 34 cents. The decrease is the final of three gasoline tax reductions approved in early 2015 as part of a highway funding fix. But the 34-cent per gallon tax might only last for six months. Starting in 2017, the base gas tax will be 34 cents, but could be adjusted upward based on a formula that considers population growth and inflation.

Mo-ped insurance

A year ago, all moped owners had to register their scooters with the state and get a license plate. Now, the 28,000 owners must show proof of liability insurance or their plate will be revoked. The proof of insurance coverage can be taken to a local license plate agency, according to the Division of Motor Vehicles, or an insurance company can send it to DMV. The mandate shouldn’t be a surprise to moped owners — DMV says they’ve sent out two letters about the requirement since April. There’s been some discussion about delaying the insurance mandate at the General Assembly but nothing has been approved.

Late fees

If you’ve forgotten about renewing your car registration, you’re now subject to a late fee of $15 on the first day of the month after the renewal date. It grows to $20 if the registration has expired for one month and $25 for two months. Drivers can still drive their vehicles for 15 days after the expiration date without being ticketed for driving with an outdated registration, according to DMV.

School safety

The 2015 budget gave the Department of Public Safety until Friday to implement a statewide panic alarm system in the state’s public schools for emergencies . A department spokeswoman said Wednesday panic alarms are in 99 percent of schools and the rest are likely coming on board when pending construction is completed. An anonymous school safety tip line also has been developed and been piloted in several districts ahead of the Friday deadline.

Autism coverage

Health insurance plans regulated by the state — including dominant carrier Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina — must now cover treatments for people diagnosed with autism disorders. The law allows insurers to halt coverage at age 18 and at $40,000 in expenses per year for each patient. Blue Cross says initial coverage on autism spectrum disorder begins with group insurance plans and will be extended in January to individual plans as they get renewed.

Builders’ property tax

Commercial or residential builders that have made improvements on property they own like a new home or office building but haven’t yet sold the property can now avoid paying the property tax increase related to those improvements while they’re on the market. There’s a time limit on the exclusion — three years for homes and five years for commercial properties. The legislation was pitched as a way to help the home-building industry.