Rep. Wray’s Raleigh Report


Throughout the most recent legislative session, I worked with my colleagues in the General Assembly on initiatives that will improve life in our state.

Some of these new laws will go into place Jan. 1, and I want to share some information about them with you. These laws cover everything from smoking in bars and restaurants to protecting the environment and conserving energy. They are intended to make you and your families more secure, to protect our children and to make sure those who do violate our laws are properly punished.

You can access the full list by visiting the General Assembly’s website and opening the document 2009 Legislation Effective Dates.

In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns that I can help you resolve, I hope that you will contact me. I’m pleased to do what I can to help any of my constituents. Thank you as always for your interest in the work of the General Assembly and state government and thank you for your support.

Health

A new law that will result in smaller rate increases than originally projected for members of the State Health Plan, while also increasing the plan’s transparency, will go into effect on January 1, 2010 (SB 287 – S.L. 2009-16). The new law reduces the premium rate increase for the next two years from 10 percent to 8.9 percent. It also adds coverage for treatment by chiropractors, mental health and substance abuse professionals and speech therapists and includes provisions to encourage plan members to stop smoking and to lose weight. The law retains language added in the House that calls for an independent audit of the plan, more detailed billing information, and increased disclosure of transactional data and administrative costs. The law also calls for monthly financial reports and establishes a 15-member Blue Ribbon Task Force that will examine the plan’s rate structure and governance, among other things.

The state law that prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants goes into effect on January 2, 2010 (HB 2 — S.L. 2009-27). The intent of the legislation is to protect North Carolinians from the harm of secondhand smoke.

A new state law establishes requirements for certification of persons performing lead-based paint renovation work in certain residential housing and child-occupied facilities (HB 1151 — S.L. 2009-488). The law also requires accreditation of renovation trainers and renovation training courses.

Crime/Safety

As of January 1, 2010, the state is required to collect, maintain and publish statistics on the use of deadly force by law enforcement that results in death under a new state law (HB 266 — S.L. 2009-106).

The North Carolina Racial Justice Act will be effective on January 1, 2010 (SB 461 — S.L. 2009-464). The intent of the law is to provide fair imposition of capital sentences by lessening the chance that the death penalty will be imposed based on race. The law applies retroactively for the first year. Opponents worry the change will delay pending executions and clog the court system, but that has not been the experience in Kentucky, the only other state with a similar law.

Energy/Environment

A new state law promotes voluntary, year-round conservation and water use efficiency measures by commercial car washes (H.B. 1236 – S.L. 2009-480). The legislation outlines a number of guidelines by which a trade or professional organization representing commercial car washes may establish a voluntary water conservation and water use efficiency certification program to encourage and promote the use of year-round water conservation and water use efficiency measures.

Certain environmental and natural resources laws have been amended to: (1) require electronic reporting of environmental lead test results and blood lead test results; (2) clarify the fee structure for food and lodging permits; (3) revise the sunset provision for nutrient offset payments; (4) amend the solid waste disposal tax to streamline the process when a local government is served by a solid waste management authority; (5) repeal the requirement that seasonal state park employees wear a uniform vest; and (7) clarify implementation of the Jordan Lake rules related to federal and state entities (SB 838 — S.L. 2009-484). These amendments are effective on January 1, 2010.

To improve Upper Neuse Basin water quality, state lawmakers passed an Act to protect and restore water quality and quantity in the Upper Neuse River Basin, Falls Lake, and other drinking water supply reservoirs (SB 1020 — S.L. 2009-486). This will be achieved by directing the Environmental Management Commission to provide credit to local governments, landowners, and others who reduce water pollution in the Upper Neuse River Basin before permanent rules are adopted, modifying the nutrient management strategy, and adopting a sedimentation strategy for certain drinking water supply reservoirs.

Certain North Carolina dams in connection with electric generating facilities will be subject to the Dam Safety Act under a new state law (S.B. 1004 – S.L. 2009-390). The law allows the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources to inspect the structural soundness of coal ash dams. Previously, utility companies submitted their own engineering reports to the state Utilities Commission and were not subject to inspection by an outside entity. The law will also permit an electric public utility that purchases or constructs a carbon offset facility to retain the fuel and fuel-related cost savings resulting from the purchase or construction of the facility under certain conditions.

Military

Under a new state law, the Division of Motor Vehicles is allowed to waive the commercial motor vehicles skills test for qualified military personnel who have operated similar vehicles for at least two years prior to applying for a commercial driver’s license (SB 423 – S.L. 2009-494). The law also waives the requirement if the applicant has completed a similar skills test while in the military.

North Carolina’s absentee voting laws have been improved under a new state law (S.B. 253 — S.L. 2009-537). The law is specifically intended to improve the ability of military and overseas voters to cast timely ballots. This is incredibly important because it is vital that those defending democracy have the opportunity to participate in the democratic process.

Miscellaneous

Legislation that assists owners in recovering lost pets, relieve overcrowding at animal shelters, and facilitate adoptions of animals from shelters will be effective on January 1, 2010 (SB 467 — S.L. 2009-304). Among other things, the law establishes procedures for animal control officers to scan animals for owner information on microchips; requires that euthanasia be conducted according to rules approved by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, if such rules exist; and requires that, before animals are sold or put to death, they be made available for adoption under procedures that allow the public to inspect them, unless they are found to be unadoptable due to injury or defects of health or temperament.

A new state law expands film credit by providing for an alternative credit for qualifying expenses of a production company (SB 943 — S.L. 2009-529).

A new state law requires all cities, counties and other local units of government to adopt a code of ethics for their governing boards (H.B. 1452 – S.L. 2009-403). The law also requires members of those boards to receive education on ethics laws applicable to local government officials.

Annual 7th Senatorial District Public Forum

Job Creation and Economic Growth: Moving Past the Recession
Thursday, January 28, 2010

Senator Doug Berger, Representative Lucy Allen and I would like to invite all citizens, civic leaders and public officials in Franklin, Granville, Vance and Warren counties to attend the annual 7th Senatorial District Public Forum on Thursday, January 28, 2010. This event will be held in the Civic Center at Vance-Granville Community College’s Main Campus in Henderson beginning at 10:00 A.M. We hope to end the forum by 2:00 P.M.

This year’s forum will be entitled “Job Creation and Economic Growth: Moving Past the Recession” and will focus on North Carolina’s current job creation and economic growth status. Lunch will be provided for all participants. You will have an opportunity to let Senator Berger, Representative Allen and me know your concerns for the upcoming short session of the North Carolina General Assembly convening May 12, 2010.

Presenters for this workshop will include the following:

Secretary Keith Crisco, North Carolina Department of Commerce
Dr. Scott Ralls, President, North Carolina Community College System
Mr. Billy Ray Hall, President, N.C. Rural Economic Development Center

We hope that you will respond to this invitation by calling or emailing any one of the sponsors by January 21, 2010. This event is FREE and open to the public.

Please RSVP to one of the following offices by January 21st:

Senator Berger, (919) 715-8363 or email
Representative Allen, (919) 733-5860 or email
Representative Wray, (919) 733-5662 or email

Kay, Matthew, Phillip and I wish for you and your family a New Year filled with peace, hope and happiness.

Please invite me to attend your county, city, community or civic, etc. meetings or events.

As I’ve said many times before, I hope you will continue to let me know how you feel about the issues that are being debated by the North Carolina Legislature and the challenges you and your family are facing each day.

By working together, we can make Northampton, Vance and Warren Counties and all regions of North Carolina a better place to live, work and raise a family.

Please remember that you can use the General Assembly’s website to look up bills, view lawmaker biographies and access other information. The site also contains detailed information about the state budget and legislative schedules.