Gov. Roy Cooper signed 12 bills Tuesday — on topics ranging from school bus safety to Sunday hunting to drones — leaving just 12 more bills still awaiting action by the end of the month.
Two bills were signed in formal ceremonies Tuesday, while the others became law without much fanfare. Cooper was joined by legislators and others at the governor's mansion to sign House Bill 353, which adds three new properties to the state parks system as state natural areas: Bobs Creek in McDowell County, Warwick Mill Bay in Robeson County and Salmon Creek in Bertie County.
Then Cooper headed to a Greenville school to sign Senate Bill 55, would allow school districts to install cameras on buses or contract with a company that offers the service. Drivers caught on camera illegally passing a bus would owe a fine of $400 for the first offense, $750 for the second offense and $1,000 on the third offense. They could appeal the ticket in court.
“Speeding past a stopped school bus puts children’s lives at risk, sometimes with tragic results,” Cooper said in a news release. “With this new law in place, we have another tool to help children who ride the school bus travel safely.”
Several legislators voted against the measure, arguing that the process could infringe on the rights of drivers, because the civil penalty process differs from what happens when a law enforcement officer pulls over a driver for passing a bus.
Cooper also signed House Bill 559, titled “Outdoor Heritage Enhanced,” which expands a 2015 law legalizing Sunday hunting. Hunters could hunt migratory birds, such as ducks, on Sundays if the state’s appointed Wildlife Resources Commission approves the change and sets rules for the practice.
The commission would conduct a formal study of the issue and report findings to the legislature. The final version of the bill requires a voter referendum for counties seeking to have a local ban on Sunday hunting, but it dropped a proposal to allow hunting on Sunday mornings when church is in session.
Another bill that became law Tuesday was House Bill 128, which makes it illegal to fly a drone within 500 feet of a prison or jail. Anyone who flies a drone over a correctional facility with the goal of dropping a weapon, cigarettes, alcohol or communication devices — or any other item banned inside prisons — will now face a felony charge and could be fined up to $1,500.
“Criminals look to exploit the latest technology and we must make sure our laws keep up,” Cooper said. “Drones are the newest way to get drugs and weapons behind prison walls and this law will help law enforcement fight prison contraband and the crime it causes.”
Cooper signed Senate Bill 82, titled “Achieving Business Efficiencies,” which will exempt companies that have “direct sellers” — people who sell their merchandise directly to customers, such as Mary Kay or Tupperware representatives — from paying unemployment insurance for those workers.
Another provision makes employees of a “seasonal amusement or recreation establishment” exempt from the state’s overtime and record-keeping rules. The commissioner of labor would no longer be authorized to allow those employers to pay less than minimum wage for seasonal workers; the bill’s sponsor said the change was requested by the Greensboro Grasshoppers baseball team.
Of the 12 bills remaining on Cooper's desk late Tuesday, the most controversial is House Bill 589, the solar energy bill that contains an 18-month moratorium on wind energy projects that could prompt some companies to drop planned developments in northeastern North Carolina.
Here's a list of the other bills Cooper signed Tuesday:
- House Bill 89: An Act To Allow Municipalities To Transfer The Powers, Duties, And Responsibilities Of A Public Housing Authority To A Regional Council Of Government
- House Bill 396: An Act Authorizing The City Of Wilson To Continue The Provision Of Communication Services In The City's Temporary Extension Areas Until Thirty Days After Alternative Service Is Established
- House Bill 434: An Act To Exempt Rare Coins, Paper Currency, And Precious Metals Sales From Sales Tax
- House Bill 656: An Act To Provide Flexibility To The College Of The Albemarle In Using State Funds To Enter Into Certain Construction Projects For Educational Facilities With The Counties Served By The Community College
- House Bill 657: An Act modifying the laws prohibiting issuance of adult care home licenses due to prior violations; exempting from Certificate of Need review new institutional health services involving the acquisition of an unlicensed adult care home that was previously licensed; establishing a process for adult care homes to request informal dispute resolution of certain adverse inspection findings by county departments of social services prior to imposition of a penalty or issuance of a star rating certificate based on the adverse inspection findings; amending the rules pertaining to minimum training for personal care aides; eliminating the 12- to 24-month penalty on adult care home star ratings; and directing the department of health and human services to study the effectiveness of the North Carolina star-rated certificate program for adult care homes
- Senate Bill 344: An Act to consolidate the Division of Adult Correction and the Division of Juvenile Justice into a single division within the Department of Public Safety, as recommended by the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety and to exempt the fabrication of eyeglasses from capitated prepaid health plan contracts under Medicaid transformation
- Senate Bill 468: An Act To Modify The Uses For Qualified Zone Academy Bonds