Under the Dome

Bill protects National Guard, helps victims of terrorism

The state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow people to sue for injuries suffered as the result of a terrorist attack.

House Bill 371 is aimed at recovering money from a terrorist or from someone who aid or abets, solicits or lends material support to a terrorist before or after an actual attack. It would allow an person who is injured or sustains property damage to sue for up to three times the amount of actual damages or $50,000, whichever is greater. Legal action would have to be brought within five years.

A new provision in the bill would allow members of the N.C. National Guard to carry concealed weapons if they have state permits to do so, while on duty in such places as recruiting offices and armories. Written approval by the adjunct general would be required.

In July, a gunman killed five service members in Tennessee by shooting up a recruiting center and a naval operations support center, before law enforcement shot him to death.

An unrelated provision was written into the bill, allowing the state Rules Review Commission to hire outside attorneys without the approval of the governor or attorney general, as the law currently requires for state agencies. Sen. Josh Stein, a Democrat from Raleigh, objected that it would squander the public’s money because outside attorneys cost more than using the attorney general’s staff to defend lawsuits.

“Some bodies do have an attorney general to represent the body when they need it,” Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Hendersonville, said in a pointed reference to GOP legislators’ dispute with the attorney general.

Attorney General Roy Cooper has come under criticism from Republicans for declining to continue defending the state’s ban on same-sex marriage because federal appellate rulings made it fruitless. Republicans are making it a political issue because Cooper is running against Gov. Pat McCrory.

GOP legislative leaders have also given themselves the authority to hire outside counsel when they think the attorney general isn’t up to the task.

Stein said he would vote for the bill because he favored protecting the lives of members of the National Guard, although he opposed wasting taxpayers’ money. The Senate passed the bill unanimously and sent it back to the House to concur with changes.