North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

December 8, 2023

The North Carolina General Assembly was not in session this week, resulting in no legislative activities in Raleigh. However, the political landscape began to shift as candidates for office in North Carolina started filing on Monday, with the deadline set for next Friday, December 15 at noon. This filing period has already seen its share of unexpected developments. Notably, US Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10), known for his role as interim US House Speaker earlier this year, announced his decision not to run for reelection. Additionally, US Congresswoman Kathy Manning (D-NC-06) revealed she would not seek reelection, citing the redrawing of her district into a Republican-leaning area by state lawmakers.

Bills Effective December 1

During this year’s legislative long session, a total of 160 bills and resolutions became law. 74 of those bills were signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper, 19 were vetoed by the Governor but subsequently overridden by the Republican-controlled legislature, and 13 became law without the Governor’s signature. A handful of the bills that became law this year officially went into effect on December 1, including:

HB 34: Protect Those Who Serve and Protect Act creates a specific offense for discharging or attempting to discharge a firearm at or into an unoccupied emergency vehicle. The new law also increases the punishment for pointing a laser device at a law enforcement officer and creates an offense for pointing a lase device at law enforcement agency animals as well as other emergency personnel. Furthermore, the bill modifies existing laws to increase criminal punishments for assaults committed against law enforcement officers and other government officials.

HB 40: Preventing Rioting and Civil Disorder which Governor Cooper allowed to become law without his signature, enhances North Carolina’s approach to handling rioting and civil disorder. HB 40 specifies that active involvement is necessary for criminal prosecution of riot-related offenses, while notably increasing penalties for acts causing significant property damage, serious bodily harm, or death during riots. The legislation also permits civil actions for damages resulting from rioting, looting, or trespassing during emergencies. Additionally, the bill imposes stricter bail and pretrial release conditions for those charged with riot-related crimes and expands the state’s human trafficking statutes.

HB 87: Probation Modifications/Sheriff Authority has several sections that went into effect when it became law in June, but also has provisions affecting the supervision of probation that went into effect on December 1. The newly effective section allows courts to delegate to probation officers the authority to reduce an offender’s term of supervised probation under specific conditions. This delegation can occur when an offender is compliant with probation terms and has shown diligent progress, such as completing treatment programs, education, or maintaining steady employment.

HB 142: Protect Our Students Act classifies all sexual activities with a student and indecent liberties as Class G felonies, expanding the definition of a student to include individuals who were in school within the past six months. The bill also intensifies penalties for failing to report child misconduct, making it a Class I felony for certain school administrators to not report known or suspected misconduct.

HB 186: Division of Juvenile Justice Modifications makes several key changes to the juvenile justice system in North Carolina. It allows for certain felonies committed by juveniles to be tried in adult court, permits the release of some juvenile information under specific conditions, and amends rules for custodial interrogation. The bill also facilitates the involvement of juvenile justice court counselors in serving legal documents and clarifies defenses in juvenile cases. Additionally, HB 186 authorizes courts to order medical evaluations or treatment for juveniles and requires annual training for juvenile justice personnel on minority sensitivity and addressing racial and ethnic disparities.

SB 20: Care for Women, Children and Families Act gained national attention for restricting abortions after 12 weeks of gestation with certain exceptions. That portion of the bill was effective immediately when it was enacted on July 1. However, another provision of the bill went into effect on December 1. The newly effective section concerns the safe surrender of infants. Under the new law, parents who comply with the established guidelines will not face prosecution for abandoning an infant, provided the baby is less than 30 days old. This is an extension from the previous law, which set the limit at 7 days.

SB 41: Guarantee 2nd Amendment Freedom and Protections was enacted over the objections of Governor Cooper, who said the bill would increase access to handguns for domestic abusers. The bill initially eliminated the requirement for a permit to purchase a handgun. As of December 1, it further extends these relaxed regulations by allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring firearms into places of worship that also house schools.

SB 49: Parents’ Bill of Rights was a controversial bill, passed over Governor Cooper’s objections, that regulates how LGBTQ topics can be taught in schools, and governs how a school should respond when a student uses a different name or pronoun. However, the section that became law on December 1 deals with parental consent for medical treatment of minors. The provision mandates that health care practitioners must obtain written or documented consent from parents or guardians before providing, soliciting, or arranging treatment for minors. If a health care practitioner violates this requirement, they face disciplinary actions from their governing licensure board, which could include fines up to $5,000.

SB 58: Protect Critical Infrastructure was enacted to enhance the security and protection of utility properties in North Carolina. This law was passed in response to the unsolved attack on the Moore County electric substations. It significantly increases the penalties for property crimes against utilities, including electric, gas, and telecommunications facilities.

SB 206: Control Substances/Opioid/Vaccine/At Home Omnibus targets the issue of counterfeit controlled substances in North Carolina. It makes it a Class E felony to possess, manufacture, distribute, export, or import items intended for creating counterfeit drugs. This applies to substances falsely labeled or misrepresented as controlled substances. The law excludes legitimate activities by pharmacies and related professionals.

SB 246: Property Owners Protection Act would modify the law of second-degree trespass to include entering or remaining on the curtilage of a dwelling of another between the hours of midnight and 6:00 A.M.

SB 364: Nondiscrimination and Dignity in State Work regulates discussions on race and gender within North Carolina state employment settings, including hiring interviews. This new law, enacted after state lawmakers voter to override Governor Cooper’s veto, prohibits the promotion of certain concepts in state government workplaces and training sessions. These banned concepts include the ideas that a person is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive due to their race or sex, or that individuals bear responsibility for the past actions of others sharing their race or sex.

SB 582: North Carolina Farm Act of 2023 introduces several environmental and agricultural regulations in North Carolina. Key provisions that went into effect on December 1 include making it a misdemeanor to leave the scene of an animal waste spill without cleaning it up, aligning penalties for assaulting Agriculture Department inspectors with standard assault penalties, restricting drone use near forest fires, and expanding the definition of timber larceny to include illegal cutting and transporting of forest products.

SB 747: Elections Law Changes updated North Carolina’s electoral regulations. Despite the governor’s veto, which the legislature overrode, the law makes a host of changes to changes to timelines affecting early voting and voting by mail. Beginning December 1, the law introduces a misdemeanor charge for impersonating key election officials – such as a chief judge, judge of election, or other precinct officials – while they are engaged in duties related to voter registration or the conduct of any primary or election.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

No legislative business is scheduled for next week.