About 20 bills introduced by local legislators become law, need Gov. Cooper’s signature

Published 12:05 am Sunday, July 9, 2017

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — After the N.C. General Assembly adjourned for a July recess, about 20 bills introduced by Rowan County’s legislators are awaiting the governor’s signature or have already become law.

Rowan County’s state legislators this year introduced bills ranging from theft at retail stores to light bars on cars and trucks. Gov. Roy Cooper has signed some of the bills sponsored by both bodies of the general assembly and sponsored by local legislators, but many others are still waiting to become law.

Rep. Harry Warren, R-77, has one bill pertaining to unemployment insurance that’s been signed by the governor. Four more have been presented to Cooper but haven’t received his signature.

No bills of which Rep. Carl Ford, R-76, is a primary sponsor have been presented to the governor or signed into law. However, the senate version of a Kannapolis deannexation bill introduced by Ford has become law. A bill that included Ford’s proposal related to Rowan County’s occupancy tax has also become law.

Meanwhile, former Sen. Andrew Brock, R-34, has two bills of which he’s the primary sponsor and have become law. One is the senate’s version of the Kannapolis deannexation bill. The second relates to providing surplus computers to low-income students. Two other bills introduced by Brock are waiting for the governor’s signature.

Two bills introduced by Sen. Tom McInnis, R-25, have become law, and he’s waiting on the governor’s signature for two more.

Generally, Rowan County’s legislators said the 2017 legislative session has been productive so far. All legislators mentioned the recently passed state budget when asked about work accomplished so far in the N.C. General Assembly, which will return to Raleigh on Aug. 3.

“I think the legislature really did address and respond to the voice of the people across North Carolina, and I think that’s shown by the diverse collection of bills that passed,” Warren said.

Warren’s bills

Warren’s five bills that became law or are waiting for the governor’s signature are as follows: H.B. 5, H.B. 120, H.B. 190, H.B. 384 and H.B. 548.

H.B. 5 deals with unemployment insurance. It became law on April 27. Warren summarized the bill by saying it would close loopholes for “unscrupulous behavior” by some employers and shorten the time it takes to respond to a claim.

H.B. 120 adds national guard members, employees and retirees to the list of those who can purchase from Correction Enterprises. Cooper was presented with the bill on June 27 but has not signed it.

H.B. 190 reduces the number years a destitute firefighter for a certified department must serve in order to receive assistance from a firefighters relief fund. It was presented to the governor on June 29.

H.B. 384 aims to deal with organized rings of retail thieves, Warren said. Previously, thieves were able to steal goods from a store, return them for a gift card and repeat the process in multiple counties. The aggregate total of all thefts in all counties could not be considered when filing charges, he said. It was presented to the governor on June 29.

“Ultimately the consumers were paying for the loss,” he said.

Now, the aggregate total can be considered.

H.B. 548 “creates a level playing field” for dispersal products used in drain fields, such as those used for septic tanks, by making the items exempt from sales tax, Warren said. It was presented to the governor on June 27.

His bill creating a school calendar flexibility program — H.B. 389 — passed through the N.C. House but has not passed the N.C. Senate. Asked about the measure, Warren said it’s still alive and has “a lot of support” in both chambers. He said the program was placed in the state’s budget at one point but was removed before the final draft.

Ford’s bills

Ford didn’t have any bills of which he was a primary sponsor that passed before the legislature adjourned in late June. However, a proposal that gave Rowan County commissioners the ability to raise occupancy taxes was lumped into another bill which became law. S.B. 261 is the senate version of a Kannapolis deannexation bill, and it became law on June 30.

Ford said he had never worked as hard on a pair of proposals as he did on the occupancy tax and deannexation bills.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Ford said. “The house waited forever for a special subcommittee of occupancy tax changes and then the Senate just took all of our bills and buried them in rules. It all went down to the last minute.”

Rowan County’s occupancy tax changes have actually already taken effect. On Wednesday, Rowan County commissioners voted to increase the occupancy tax on hotels, motels and lodging facilities from 3 percent to 6 percent.

The Kannapolis deannexation started as a request submitted to the Kannapolis City Council. It consists of two houses located in the northernmost portion of the city near Cannon Farm Road. The deannexation needed to be passed before the N.C. General Assembly before becoming official.

McInnis’ bills

Five bills of which McInnis was the primary sponsor either became law or still need the governor’s signature. Those five bills are as follows: S.B. 24, S.B. 55, S.B. 182, S.B. 217, S.B. 249.

S.B. 24 allows food service establishments, such as restaurants, to use outdoor grills to cook food. It became law on May 24.

S.B. 55 pertains to school bus cameras. It was presented to the governor on June 30 and has not received his signature. Describing the bill, McInnis said it would, on a voluntarily basis, allow local school boards to buy or lease cameras that would monitor people who pass school buses while the stop arm is extended.

McInnis said the bill isn’t intended to get people in trouble, but it aims to change people’s driving habits.

S.B. 182 would prohibit people from using light bars while driving a vehicle on public highways. Light bars could still be installed on a vehicle, but they would have to be turned off while on a public highway. It was presented to the governor on June 29 and has not received his signature.

S.B. 217 pertains only to Richmond County, and it prohibits people from firing a gun or bow and arrow from a public road or over a public road.

S.B. 249 also only pertains to Richmond County, and it establishes a coyote bounty program that aims to reduce the population of the animals.

McInnis also was the primary sponsor of the senate version of an opioid bill that was that was signed by the governor and became law on June 29. The General Assembly and the governor signed the House version of the bill — H.B. 243.

McInnis said the opioid bill is among the most significant pieces of legislation passed this session. He said the bill would reduce the number of opioid pills that are given to “able-bodied adults.”

Specifically, the opioid bills would extend standing orders to opioid antagonists to community health groups, establish maximum limits for certain drugs, require physicians to consult with physician assistants and nurse practitioners who prescribe certain Schedule II or III substances, require hospice and palliative care providers to provide education about disposal of the drugs, establish civil penalties for pharmacies that employ dispensers who improperly report information and several other measures.

Brock’s bills

Brock was the primary sponsor of five bills that became law or still need the governor’s signature. Those bills are as follows: S.B. 82, S.B. 160, S.B. 261, S.B. 312, S.B. 548 and S.B. 615.

Brock could not be reached by deadline to comment about his bills.

S.B. 82, made small changes to employment laws. It was presented to the governor on June 30.

S.B. 160 pertained to handicap parking privileges. Specifically, the bill states that a medical certification and recertification for parking privileges can be completed by a licensed physician assistant, nurse practitioner or certified nurse midwife.

It was presented to the governor on June 27 and has not been signed.

S.B. 261 is the Kannapolis deannexation bill.

S.B. 312 would allow the state’s surplus property agency to distribute surplus computers to nonprofit entities that refurbish and donate computers to low-income students and households. It was signed by the governor on June 28.

S.B. 548 strengthens human trafficking laws, requires massage and bodywork therapists to obtain a “statewide privilege license” asks the Department of Health and Human Service to study ways to identify and protect victims of human trafficking.

S.B. 615 is known as the 2017 N.C. Farm Bill. It makes a number of agriculture-related changes.

Some of those changes include: creating a definition for abandoned livestock, eliminates county authority to adopt zoning regulations governing pig farms, allow food compliance inspectors to drive vehicles without tags and bumper stickers, allows emergency workers to receive compensation when responding to incidents that aren’t fires, exempt the closure of hog lagoons from needing a professional engineer and authorize wine sales at farmers markets.

Brock resigned from the N.C. Senate recently to take a position on the N.C. Board of Review. As a result, he will not return to his seat when the General Assembly reconvenes in Raleigh on Aug. 3.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.