February 8, 2016
By Jeanne E. Fredriksen
The new year began with 23 new laws going into effect in North Carolina. Approved during the 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 sessions, some laws are controversial and narrow in scope while others affect most North Carolinians. Below are summaries of some of the laws.
HB 97 – 2015 Appropriations Act. This 429-page document covers a variety of issues, including the state’s current operating funds. The changes in effect as of January 1 include those relative to the state-subsidized child care program, the state Division of Medical Services, synchronization of prescription refills, Medicaid, and water and sewer lines. North Carolinians who drive will be affected by the on-average 30% increases in DMV fees (Part XXIX Section 29.30), the first substantial rate hike in 10 years. A passenger car title, which was $40, now costs $52. The standard annual license plate registration now costs $36 (up from $28). A regular eight-year driver’s license has increased from $32 to $40. A limited learner’s permit now costs $5 more at $20. In addition, if you attend a driver improvement clinic, it will run you $65 instead of $50. The increases are intended to fund transportation projects.
HB 405 – Property Protection Act. Vetoed and overridden, the nicknamed “ag-gag bill” prohibits individuals from using information from the company for which they work or recording practices on an employer’s property that are meant to reveal abuses and/or misconduct. Penalties are put in place for such actions because undercover investigations are now deemed illegal.
HB 465 – Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015. While the 72-hour waiting period for an abortion went into effect last October, as of January 1, abortion providers in the state of North Carolina are now required to send to the state Department of Health and Human Services all records for abortions or induced miscarriages. This includes ultrasounds, measurements and other data, and, in some cases, a written explanation of the pregnancy’s threat to the mother’s life. Controversial since Governor McCrory signed the original bill last June, questions remain as to the privacy of the patients although the patients’ names are to be removed.
HB 589 – VIVA/Election Reform. This is the most high-profile of all our new laws simply because of the national press it has received since 2013. The law now requires all North Carolinians to present photo identification in order to exercise their right to vote. However, because the state’s primary was moved, voters without proper I.D. will still be able to cast a provisional ballot on March 15. For all of the voter identification details for 2016, go to www.voterid.nc.gov.
SB 15 – Unemployment Insurance Law Changes. If you find yourself unemployed after January 1, and you qualify for unemployment insurance, you will have to make a minimum of five (5) job contacts per week. The previous requirement was two (2).
SB 20 – IRC Update/Motor Fuel Tax Changes. Part I deals with changes relative to the Internal Revenue Code. Part II concerns the state’s gasoline tax. From January 1 through June 30, the motor fuel excise tax rate is down a penny at a flat rate of 35¢ per gallon. From July 1 to December 31, the tax will decrease again to 34¢ per gallon.
SB 621 – Registration Renewal Notice/E-Mail. If you prefer to conduct business electronically, you can now receive your vehicle tax and tag invoice via email. To do so, you must send a request to the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles via surface mail that states you no longer wish to receive your bill via surface mail. You must, of course, also provide your email address.
To read a summary of all 23 laws, go to http://www.ncleg.net/documentsites/legislativepublications/Effective Dates/2015 Effective Dates/2015EffectiveDates.pdf. This PDF provides a bill’s short and long titles, its effective date, and which sections of the bill were implemented January 1, 2016. To locate the full text of any of the bills, scroll down to page 30 of the PDF. Click on the link under Session/Law to the left of the Bill Number on the document, and then click on the bill’s full name for the complete text.