New year, new legislation for North Carolina

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 4, 2018

The dawning of 2018 brought with it 20 new laws for North Carolina.

The laws will affect business, agriculture, energy, environmental, and natural resources regulations. They will also affect matters of public health, transportation and politics.

Newly effective laws of note include:

• The Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act

The law extends a statewide standing order for “opioid antagonists” such as Narcan, allowing practitioners to prescribe them to any government or nongovernment agency.

It designates certain drugs as “targeted controlled substances,” instituting requirements to keep care teams aware of prescriptions and educate patients and families on correct disposal.

The STOP Act imposes penalties on caregivers who fail to report violations and requires routine review of patient medical history.

• Driver Instruction/Law Enforcement Stops

The bill requires the Division of Motor Vehicles to consult with the State Highway Patrol, the Sheriff’s Association, and the Association of Chiefs of Police to include law enforcement traffic stop procedures and descriptions in its driver license handbook. These topics will be included in the driver education curriculum offered at public high schools. They include descriptions of appropriate driver interactions with law enforcement officers.

• Require Background Check/Pharmacist Licensure

The bill mandates that the state Board of Pharmacy require applicants for a pharmacy license to undergo criminal background screening. Applicants will be required to pay the reporting service for the cost of the report.

• Achieving Business Efficiencies

The bill exempts employees of “seasonal amusements” or “recreational establishments” from state overtime and record-keeping requirements. It also removes the authority of the commissioner of labor to allow this same group of employees to be paid less than minimum wage.

Currently, there are seven groups of employees exempt from state overtime and record-keeping requirements. These include drivers and mechanics; seamen, railroad and air carrier employees; certain employees of the automotive and truck industry; live-in child care workers; and radio and television announcers, news editors, and chief engineers.

• Driver’s License/Deaf or Hard of Hearing Designation

Under this act, the Division of Motor Vehicles must develop a voluntary driver’s license designation for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The law requires training for law enforcement officers on the designation and on recognizing and appropriately interacting with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

This designation will be similar to voluntary indicators of race or military status.

• Electoral Freedom Act

The law amends the qualifications for a group of voters to be recognized as a political party.

Currently, groups would only be recognized if it received 2 percent of the vote cast in the state for governor or president in the most recent election. Moreover, the group was required to file a petition with the state with the signatures of registered voters equal to 2 percent of the vote for governor.

Now, only 1.5 percent of the vote is required and 0.25 percent of the vote in signatures, provided there are at least 200 signatures from at least three congressional districts.