Under the Dome

Moped registrations, numerous other laws take effect on Wednesday

Owners of mopeds, those buzzing, low-speed vehicles, have to register their mopeds with the state by Wednesday.

It’s among a raft of new laws taking effect on Wednesday. The moped law passed last year and effective July 1 requires all moped operators to register their vehicle with the Division of Motor Vehicles and mount a state-issued license plate for display at all times.

It’s an $18 per-moped cost annually – same as a motorcycle – though some jurisdictions charge additional transit fees.

Required for registration is the manufacturer’s certificate of origin, and the moped must be designed for use on highways or public streets. Applicants can still register and plate their mopeds without a certificate of origin, as long they fill out an affidavit explaining why they lack the documentation and swearing they’re entitled to the registration.

Gov. Pat McCrory signed a separate bill on Monday that will require liability insurance on mopeds, effective July 2016.

Other laws taking effect Wednesday:

▪ New license plate: Motorists can declare that North Carolina is not just “First in Flight,” it’s “First in Freedom,” too. Vehicles can opt for that slogan instead of the classic Wright Brothers salute. No extra charge, according to the DMV.

▪ Privilege tax repeal: Municipalities statewide can forget about levying privilege license taxes on companies that do business in their jurisdiction. While some legislators argued that cities were using the taxes abusively, cities have complained that the repeal, part of the legislature’s tax system overhaul, has created revenue holes they can fill with few other means than property taxation.

▪ Driver’s education funding: The state is repealing a line of law that tapped the state’s Highway Fund to cover state investments in driver’s education programs. The idea is to instead direct local school boards to use various other available funds, such as revenue from fees they can charge driver’s ed students, to fuel the programs.

▪ Veterans’ tuition: Non-resident veterans could receive in-state tuition at schools in the UNC and state community college systems. It applies specifically to non-resident veterans and others entitled to federal education benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post-9/11 Education Assistance Program. For those who meet the criteria, the state would waive its 12-month residency requirement. It’s part of an effort pushed by McCrory to make North Carolina more welcoming to veterans.

▪ Military-connected students: School principals will have to develop ways to serve the unique needs of military-connected students – those whose households include active duty members or reservists in the military. North Carolina has a large military presence. The Cumberland County Schools district, with the U.S. Army’s Ft. Bragg and Pope Field in its jurisdiction, claims to serve the world’s third-largest concentration of military-connected students.

▪ ‘Severance tax’: That’s a new state excise tax on the sale of energy minerals removed from the soil or water of North Carolina. The tax rate varies, but on gas it’s nine-tenths of 1 percent. The law prohibits cities and counties from imposing their own versions of the tax.

▪ Sales tax refunds: Soil and water conservation districts and regional jails will be eligible for refunds on sales taxes they pay on property and services. The overall fiscal impact is unknown, according to a legislative staff analysis. But only two jails – Albemarle Regional Jail and Bertie-Martin Regional Jail – would qualify, and the 96 soil and water conservation districts in the state would only cost the budget $10,000 maximum, as estimated.

▪ Firefighter’s Relief Funds: State law will now cap the balance of a local fire department’s Relief Fund, money the State Firemen’s Association Pays into the state to help sick or injured department members. As of July 1, a local balance can’t exceed the sum of $2,500 per department member on staff as of Jan. 1.

▪ Lineman Appreciation: Linemen, who work with thousands of volts coursing through high power lines and are part of the first response during storms and other catastrophic events, get their own appreciation day. Although the law is effective Wednesday, Lineman Appreciation Day will be the second Monday of every April.

▪ Handicapped placards: Handicapped vehicle owners who qualify for a distinguishing license plate can also get one removable windshield placard.