The state House passed a bill Monday that would put party labels on appellate court candidates.
House Bill 8 would reverse a law that has made state Supreme Court and Appeals Court elections nonpartisan since 2004. It passed the House 69-48, mostly along party lines, and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The bill’s supporters, mostly Republicans, maintain that party labels will make it easier for voters to pick candidates in the down-ballot races.
Though statewide judicial elections have been officially nonpartisan for more than a decade, candidates often during their campaigns make known their party affiliations.
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Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat, said the bill would accentuate partisan divisions.
“The public already has the ability now to figure out the partisan affiliation of a candidate,” he said.
Both the House and Senate were busier than usual for a Monday night as they continue to move legislation in advance of an April 30 “crossover” deadline. Most bills must pass at least one chamber by that date to remain viable for the rest of the session.
The House gave near-unanimous approval to a measure that would allow pharmacies to dispense epinephrine injectors to businesses.
These “epi” injectors are usually prescribed to people, said Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican. House Bill 647 would allow businesses to acquire the injectors so they can help customers who have sudden, severe allergic reactions. Training on their use would be mandatory. McGrady said restaurants and summer camps would be entities seeking prescriptions for the injectors.
The bill passed 115-1 and was sent to the Senate.
The House also sent to the Senate a bill to update the state’s “practice of law” definition as consumers turn to the Internet for legal services.
House Bill 436, approved 115-4 and sent to the Senate, would provide parameters for online legal service providers, such as LegalZoom, to conduct business in North Carolina without a law license.
But the online entities wouldn’t be able to offer legal advice or legal documents created when a consumer answers a series of questions about that individual’s particular legal situation, according to the North Carolina State Bar. The Bar says only licensed attorneys can perform those tasks.
Senate OKs ‘Burt’s Law’
The Senate gave unanimous approval to a bill that would require employees or volunteers in homes for the mentally ill, elderly or other institutions, to report client sexual abuse or face up to 120 days in jail.
Senate Bill 445, or Burt’s Law, is named for a man who was abused for years at a Conover group home for adults with mental disabilities. Burt Powell was in the Senate gallery with his parents, Laurie and Tom, for the vote. The bill now moves to the state House.
The state has a reporting requirement, said Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Kernersville Republican, but “there’s no real punishment” for not doing it.
“This bill puts teeth in that,” she said. “This will go a long way, I believe, in making sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else as it happened to Burt.”
Witnesses would have to report abuse to a county social services office, the local District Attorney, or law enforcement.
Witnesses at Powell’s group home reported the abuse to the home’s management, which did not act on the information, Krawiec said.
Benjamin Brown of The Insider state government news service contributed.