Under the Dome

Legislature adjourns without touching gun permit mandates

AP

The state Senate took no action on a late-session surprise bill proposed to essentially do away with concealed handgun permits.

The proposal from a group of conservative Republicans would have allowed anyone to carry a pistol hidden from public view in places where it’s legal to carry openly. It passed the House, mostly along party lines with the exception of a handful of Republicans who joined Democrats in opposing it.

The National Rifle Association has been promoting “constitutional carry” in legislatures around the country.

A more successful bill loosens the rules for Sunday hunting. It cleared both the House and Senate in the final hours of the session and went to the governor. It would require a voter referendum for counties seeking to have a local ban on Sunday hunting.

The final version dropped a proposal to allow hunting on Sunday mornings when church is in session.

Here are some of the other ideas that the N.C. General Assembly considered this year that affect public safety, and where those ideas stood by the time state lawmakers adjourned their more than five-month session early Friday morning. For even more, read our roundups of what happened on education, the environment, taxes, employee pay and benefits, elections, conflicts between the branches of government, and some of the other notable issues of session.

Run over protesters?

Drivers who hit a protester who’s blocking the road couldn’t be sued for injuries if they “exercise due care,” under a bill that passed the House in April. Democrats said the bill raises constitutional concerns because it applies only to situations in which the person hit “is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic.”

The bill never got a hearing in the Senate.

Police whistleblowers

Another bill that drew attention but stalled in the Senate proposed to protect whistleblowing law enforcement officers from retaliation.

Sponsored by Republican Rep. Chris Malone of Wake Forest, it would have prohibited agencies from discharging or threatening officers who report abuse or – and this was the sticking point – if they claim they are about to report internal wrongdoing.

The N.C. Sheriffs Association and the N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police fought to defeat the bill, while the N.C. Police Benevolent Association and rank-and-file officers supported it.

Prescription painkillers

Doctors won’t be able to give out quite as many prescription pain pills to first-time patients due to a new law designed to fight the opioid epidemic. It’s called the STOP Act.

The new regulations will discourage “doctor shopping” and lead to fewer unused pills hanging around in medicine cabinets and tempting potential abuse, lawmakers hope. Every day in North Carolina, multiple people die from unintentional overdoses of painkillers or heroin.

The STOP Act also forces doctors to use a statewide database, which was previously optional, to track what prescriptions people get.

Gov. Roy Cooper, who signed the bill into law, is also on a national opioid task force put together by President Donald Trump.

Left-lane driving

A proposal to fine drivers who block traffic in the left lane by driving too slowly was pulled off the House’s calendar in June after passing a few committees.

The Senate version of the bill had died in committee a few months before, but it’s possible the House version could be resurrected next year.

‘Raise the Age’

Following the example of every other state in the country, North Carolina lawmakers voted to stop automatically prosecuting every 16-year-old arrested in the state as an adult, no matter the crime.

Both 16- and 17-year-olds will be typically be treated as juvenile offenders after the Raise The Age bill passed in June following years of prior failed attempts. There are exceptions for certain rare circumstances, such as for violent crimes.

The changes will cost North Carolina tens of millions of dollars to implement, but academic studies and experience elsewhere have shown economic benefits for government and society in the long term.

Motorcycle helmets

An effort to allow helmet-free motorcycling for experienced North Carolina riders didn’t get enough support to pass the House in April, and the bill was never brought up for a vote.

A group of motorcyclists called it the “freedom of choice bill,” but others feared the change would lead to more severe injuries in motorcycle accidents.

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