You may have a list of resolutions for New Year’s Day, and the North Carolina General Assembly may be helping with that for some of you
Legislators passed 18 new bills that have been signed into law and take effect on Jan. 1.
Many of them are a lot of technicalities – regulatory issues – and you can read every whereas, thereby and heretofore if you wish.
But for simplicity we are grouping some of them and highlighting the bills that will have the most dramatic impact heretofore.
Child protection is a key
Lawmakers amended language to ensure the safety of children who don’t live with their families and how they are placed. This includes the process for hearings concerning the welfare of children who have been removed from homes and, most importantly, establishes safeguards to help protect against human traffickers who are predatory with such children.
A hotline to report issues must be established, and schools will be required to provide counseling and resources about child abuse and neglect, including possible sexual abuse.
Toughening up law enforcement
Lawmakers sought not only to toughen requirements for law enforcement personnel but also to provide more support for some of them and to clarify some enforcement issues on the local level.
The primary focus was to specify requirements and training for both state and local officers, including standards for hiring and rehiring. Potential officers must go through psychological evaluations and be counseled on continuing mental health resources, including required training. And the law establishes a database to identify officers who have been decertified. There are several enforcement issues specified, including how persons with mental health problems should be transported and the use of the FBI’s Next Generation Identification System and Rap Back Service for Law Enforcement and other national programs. There are requirements for law enforcement officers to report excessive use of force.
Other sections of the law decriminalize some local ordinances and classifies them as misdemeanors, require in-service training for magistrates and establishes that first appearance for a misdemeanor when the defendant is in custody must be held within 72 hours.
New rules about alcohol sales and consumption
One of the longest and most detailed laws deals with the Alcoholic Beverage Control system and how its state-operated facilities are managed and how they act in partnership with locally owned wineries and distilleries.
The new rules allow, among other things, for:
- An ABC store to sell its merchandise online and ship those spirits through a process that verifies the age and eligibility of the recipient.
- Wineries and distillers to sell packaged products at certain times on New Year’s Day, July 4th, Labor Day and Thanksgiving and rewrites rules for special events at such facilities.
- A 2-drink allowance in sales of alcohol at a college or university stadium, athletic facility, arena or sports event.
- The rules under which local governments can hold local-option elections.
- The establishment of so-called “social districts,” such as the one recently adopted by the Greensboro City Council.
- The reinforcement of alcohol content levels for beer, wine and distilled beverages. They didn’t change.
Behavior analysis board
This bill is said to be structured to reduce regulations to help children with autism, but it establishes an appointed North Carolina Behavior Analysis Board to enforce rules for licensing of mental health providers. There are specific requirements for mental health providers and penalties for those who violate rules. There also are privacy protections for the patients and consumers of mental health treatment.
A separate law addresses the licensing of mental health facilities through the Department Of Health And Human Services as a consumer protection.
About those regulations
Some laws add new regulations and others profess to reduce regulation. Among those:
- Health care providers are required to include some uniform information on insurance benefits cards, including the copays, prior authorization procedures and network providers and all the numbers a consumer could need to present to providers.
- State employees – including teachers – have a more detailed process for buying into the state retirement system, including how they can use time accrued before leaving the system and returning. There is a LOT of detail with that.
- Another omnibus bill says it provides regulatory relief by addressing rules for various businesses and employers, including public employees who benefit from government contracts, charter schools’ pre-K offerings, sales practices for distillers, tax structure for outdoor advertising, the process for applying for environmental grants and even remote building inspections.
- Building practices are addressed by establishment of requirements for the licensing of a general contractor, including the continuing education required for that, and then moves into some building codes, such as set-back distances, soil erosion and sewer systems. Another law establishes temporary certificates of occupancy and fire protections for 1- and 2-person dwellings.
- There is a law to specify the process for those who would have a new motor vehicle dealer franchise. Another encourages teachers and state employees to report fraud, waste and abuse by health care providers. There are new standards for electronic transaction fees, vehicle valuation protections and the obligation of an insurer to report rate changes.
And then … transparency
A law called “Enhance local government transparency” is an important act even if it seems dense because it reinforces the independence of the annual audits that government agencies must have, ensures that it’s a crime for an elected official to misuse the elected office for financial gain and precludes a public official serving on a nonprofit board from engaging in “self-dealing.”
In other words, they can’t set the rules to help their own causes.