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NCPBA Legislative Report 2013


The 2013 session of the North Carolina General Assembly convened at noon on Wednesday, January 9, 2013, and again on January 30, 2013, and adjourned on Friday, July 26, 2013.
 
During the session, a total of 1,752 bills were introduced with 416 being passed into law.
 
PBA’s success during this legislative session was measured more by the defeat of bad legislation we opposed, rather than legislation we had hoped would pass.
 
Despite a super majority by one party in both the House and Senate, PBA appeared during the session as the only law enforcement association to enjoy bipartisan support and attention for our legislative efforts.
 
A traditional association history of bipartisan political endorsements was instrumental to this success as PBA was able to negotiate, modify and even stop legislation during the session that was very harmful to the work life conditions of our members.  With that said, however, we fell short by only two (2) votes in the House Chambers on the passage of our Whistleblower Protection bill for local and county officers and received no movement on our Due Process bill for law enforcement officers.
 
With no visible presence from any other law enforcement groups, PBA was left alone to fight the ever increasing unethical practices from the lobbying core of the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association.
 
A summary of PBA’s legislative activity is as follows:
 
HB299, Law Enforcement Fairness Act
Primary Sponsors – Jeter, Jordan, Glazier, Avila (12 other sponsors)
 
The 2013 version of our procedural due process and just cause proceeding and impartial review bill, HB299 was introduced on March 14, 2013, and reported directly to the House Rules Committee by the Speaker of the House, Tom Tillis.
 
This was one of two major PBA supported bills that were sent to the Rules Committee where bills generally go to die.  HB299 never emerged from committee and is no longer eligible for consideration for this session.
 
LAST ACTION: REFERRED TO HOUSE COMMITTEE ON RULES CALENDAR AND OPERATIONS OF THE HOUSE
STATUS: FAILED
 
 
HB643 – Protect Officers from Retaliation
Primary Sponsors – Cotham; Dollar; Collins; Murry
 
PBA’s Whistleblower Protection bill for local and county officers and deputies was the second bill to be directed by the House Speaker to the House Rules Committee.
 
However, after intense lobbying by PBA and assistance from our bill sponsors, the Speaker advised one of the two bills could be heard.  While HB299 is PBA’s centerpiece legislation, HB643 had a much better chance of passing in that no opposition from the usual suspects, the North Carolina League of Municipalities and the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association had emerged.  In fact, the Sheriff’s Association had advised PBA that they specifically did not oppose the bill.
 
On May 15, 2013, National Law Enforcement Memorial Day, HB643 was scheduled to be heard in the House Rules Committee.  In direct contradiction to earlier claims, the Sheriff’s Association showed up in committee to oppose the bill. They brought along a newly hired lawyer lobbyist from the North Carolina Police Chief’s Association to also voice opposition to the bill.  PBA was recognized to speak to the bill by House Rules Chairman, Representative Tim Moore.  Following comments from the sheriffs and chiefs that the bill would make it impossible to fire bad cops, HB643 was given a favorable committee report and ordered to be placed on the House calendar.  After more than an hour of debate in which those opposed to the bill offered insulting and false claims against rank and file law enforcement as fed to them by opposition lobbyists, the bill was narrowly defeated by a vote of 54 to 56.  Ironically, the PBA member from whom the bill was placed in the PBA legislation agenda was a police chief in a small town that was fired for refusing to provide a corrupt town mayor with details of an ongoing drug investigation.  Our member won a $191,000 lawsuit settlement sponsored by PBA which was recently affirmed by a 3-0 decision by the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  However, this case has taken seven (7) years, and our member’s law enforcement career is ruined.  So much for the North Carolina Police Chiefs Association lobbyist that said HB643 was unnecessary because officers could go to court if they faced retaliation.  If HB643 was law, our member would never have been fired (See Blakeley v Town of Taylortown.)
 
The good news is that the House in a rather unusual move voted 63 to 47 to have the bill returned to the Rules Committee for reconsideration.  It is thought that some House members opposed to the bill would support a bill if sheriff deputies were removed.  The bill is, therefore, eligible for consideration in the 2014 Short Session if voted out of the Rules Committee.
 
LAST ACTION: DEFEATED BY A HOUSE FLOOR VOTE, 54 TO 56.
STATUS: RE-REFERRED FOR CONSIDERATION TO THE HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE BY A VOTE OF 63 TO 47
ELIGIBLE FOR THE SHORT SESSION
 
 
SB332 – Government Transparency Act
Primary Sponsor – Thom Goolsby
This bill would expand the amount and scope of information in an officers’ personnel file subject to public inspection.
 
As written, SB332 would make evaluations, training records, scores, and all other records related to an officer’s performance a matter of public records.
 
The bill would also allow reasons for promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, and separation of employment to be public.
 
As we know, the vast majority of police officers and all deputy sheriffs have no fair and impartial system to appeal disciplinary matters.  Therefore, misleading and even completely false information in an officer’s personnel file could become public if this bill became law.
 
Since SB332 applied to all public employees and was motivated by the publicly reported corrupt actions of high level public officials, it was not believed that the bill sponsor had knowledge of the specific concerns this bill presented for law enforcement officers.
 
In a March 19, 2013 letter to the bill sponsor, Senator Thom Goolsby, PBA advised of our opposition to SB332.  This was followed by meetings with PBA and members of the Senator’s staff resulting in a decision to request no movement on the bill.  With no action on the bill, SB332 died in committee.
 
LAST ACTION: REFERRED TO THE SENATE JUDICIARY I COMMITTEE
STATUS: FAILED
 
HB349 – Fayetteville/May Disclose Police Complaint
Primary Sponsors – Floyd; Glazier; Lucas; Szoka
This bill is a continuation of HB939 from the previous session in which the City of Fayetteville was attempting to enact a Police Citizens Review Board which would be able to review the personnel files of officers in matters in which officers had been cleared by department investigation.  This bill is a continuation of unlawful practices by the Fayetteville Mayor and certain city officials in unlawfully obstructing their police officer.  PBA successfully blocked these unlawful practices on behalf of members before a Cumberland County Superior Court.
 
After PBA’s successful opposition to the bill before the House Committee on Government, this bill was re-referred without prejudice or a vote to the House Judiciary Committee where the bill was not heard.
 
Following a request from the bill to primary sponsor, Representative Elmer Floyd, to meet with city and citizen leaders, PBA organized a meeting to address legitimate concerns of all parties.
 
 
Following a meeting with city and community leaders, it was agreed that PBA would make a proposal to city council by September of 2013, on a procedural due process review board that would address transparency and accountability while projecting fairness and protection of officer’s personnel files.  Unfortunately, the city council rejected the proposal.
 
In 2014, a new city council was sent a letter from PBA addressing the council renewed effort to lobby the General Assembly for yet another effort at a citizens review board.  Following a letter to the city council and lobbying efforts by the leadership of the local Sandhills Chapter of the PBA, the council has decided not to pursue another legislative effort in the 2014 legislative session.
 
LAST ACTION: RE-REFERRED TO HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
STATUS: FAILED
 
HB1001 – Repeal Statesville Civil Service Board
Primary Sponsors – Committee on Rules; Calendar and Operations of the House
HB1001 is an act to repeal the City of Statesville Civil Service Board which provides procedural due process for the city police officers and firefighters.
 
Statesville is one of only five (5) North Carolina municipalities that actually provides a fair and impartial hearing for police officers pursuant to a “just cause” standard of review.
 
Upon PBA’s opposition to the bill before the House Committee Government, the bill was displaced by Representative Rena Turner from Iredell County in order to hear the concerns of the local firefighters organization and the Southern Piedmont Chapter of the NCPBA.
 
Upon receiving “guarantees” by the Statesville town manager that he would work with local PBA representatives to address their concerns, Representative Turner displaced her bill.  PBA began efforts to meet with the town manager.  On May 9, 2013, the bill received a favorable report and passed the House by a vote of 114 – 0.
 
However, upon hearing from PBA that the Statesville town manager had not met in good faith with local PBA representatives as he had promised, Representative Turner requested that the Senate not hear the bill.  Representative Turner has advised PBA that while the bill is still eligible for the short session, she will not act on the bill until the Statesville town manager has agreed to meet with PBA.
 
LAST ACTION: REFERRED TO SENATE COMMITTEE STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
STATUS: ELIGIBLE FOR SHORT SESSION
 
 
HB834 Modern State Human Resources Management
Primary Sponsors – Collins and Burr
As initially written, HB834 removed the critical vote of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in deciding the facts and applicable law in personnel disputes.
 
Under the proposed legislation “hearing officers” would be appointed to hear officers’ appeals.  However, no language requiring qualifications of the hearing officers was set for the bill. 
 
After multiple negotiations and input on the original bill language, several amendments were adopted in which the independent hearing process before the ALJ was preserved.  PBA worked closely with the Office of Administration Hearings and the bill sponsors to modify the bill to ensure that the hearing process before the independent Administration Law Judge (ALJ) was preserved.  As a result, all decisions by the ALJ remain binding, appealed directly to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  The end result was a bill that streamlined the process while making sure that an independent review and process remained under the authority of the ALJ and not pursuant to a political process as overseen by the Governor’s office.
 
LAST ACTION: RETIFIED ON JULY 25, 2013
STATUS: PASSED
                 CH. SL. 2013-382
 
SB402 – Appropriations Act of 2013
Primary Sponsors – Brunstetter; Brunn; Hunt
This is the appropriation base budget bill that contains an amendment to GS 143 – 166.60 to allow a draw down of ten million dollars annually from the Separate Insurance Trust Fund for law enforcement officers killed or severely injured in the line of duty and transfer the funds to pay employer health insurance contributions to state law enforcement officers.
 
 
PBA opposed this action that takes money from a dead law enforcement officer trust fund to be given to state “employers” to pay for state officers’ health insurance. 
 
Unfortunately, PBA’s concerns were ignored by the Senate budget writers and the provision was included in the final budget amendment.
 
LAST ACTION: RATIFIED AND SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR
STATUS: PASSED
                  CH. SL. 2013-360
 
 
HB362 Department of Public Safety
Primary Sponsor – (Mandatory Retirement Age for State Troopers) Faircloth
This bill makes several technical and other changes at the request of the newly formed Department of Public Safety.
 
Of particular importance to our members, the bill imposed minimum and maximum age requirements and mandatory retirement age for Highway Patrol enforcement personnel.
 
The bill amended GS20-185 by adding a new subsection that read in part “ . . . Highway Patrol personnel shall retire no later than the end of the month in which they turn age 62.”  At PBA’s request the bill was amended under GS20-185 to pertain only to troopers and patrol personnel hired on or after July 1, 2013.  This request came from PBA members who, if this bill had not been amended, would have been forced to retire without full retirement benefits.  It was learned that several troopers as part of the DMV merger will reach age 62 before completing 30 years of service.  PBA thanks Representative Jeff Collins for assistance in amending the bill.
 
LAST ACTION: RATIFIED AND SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
STATUS: PASSED
                  CH. SL. 2013-289
 
 
OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST SUPPORTED BY PBA
 
 
HB656 Forfeiture for Speeding to Elude Revisions
Primary Sponsors – McNeil, Faircloth, Goodman and Dobson
This bill is a revision to PBA sponsored legislation first filed from PBA’s legislative agenda in 1994.  HB643 amends GS20-28.2 relating to forfeiture of motor vehicles seized for felony speeding to elude arrest.
 
Previous law required seized vehicles be delivered to the sheriff.  This bill changes the law in requiring seized vehicles from felony speeding to elude arrest to be handled in the same manner as vehicles seized from revoked DWI drivers.  The procedure for towing vehicles and notifying DWI will also be the same as in DWI cases.
 
LAST ACTION: RATIFIED AND SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
STATUS: PASSED
                  CH. SL. 2013-243
 
 
HB850 Possession of Needles/Tell Law Officers
Primary Sponsors – McNeil, Faircloth, Hardister, Dollar and 17 other sponsors
This bill amends GS90-113.22 that if an officer asks a suspect prior to the search of the suspect’s person, vehicle or premises for a hypodermic needle or other sharp object that could cut or puncture the officer and the subject alters the officer to it, the suspect may not be charged with a drug paraphernalia offense for the needle or sharp object.  This exemption does not apply to any other drug paraphernalia found during the search.
 
LAST ACTION: RATIFIED AND SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
STATUS: PASSED
                  CH. SL. 2013-147
 
HB937 Amend Various Firearms Law
Primary Sponsors – Schaffer, Faircloth, Burr, Cleveland and 24 other sponsors
This bill amends, in part, GS14-269(b) by expanding the list of individuals who are exempt from the general prohibition on carrying a concealed weapon to qualified retired law enforcement officers as defined by federal law under House Resolution (HR) 218, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004.
 
LAST ACTION: RATIFIED AND SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
STATUS: PASSED
                  CH. SL. 2013-479
 
SB584 Amend False Liens Law
Primary Sponsors – Tucker
This bill amends GS14-1186 which makes it unlawful for any person to file a false claim or lien against the real or personal property of a public officer or employee, by including the spouse or child of a public officer or employee under the protection of the statute.
 
LAST ACTION: RATIFIED AND SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
STATUS: PASSED
                  CH. SL. 2013-170
 
 
OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST
 
HB161 Mandatory Retirement Age of Magistrates
Primary Sponsors – Glazier, McGrady, Jordan
This bill amends GS7A-170 to require magistrates to retire no later than the last day of the month that they turn age 72.  This is the same law that applies to judges and will apply only to magistrates whose term of office begins on or after January 1, 2015.
 
LAST ACTION: RATIFIED AND SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
STATUS: PASSED
                  CH. SL. 2013-277
HB532 No Drinking in EMS and Law Enforcement Vehicles
Primary Sponsors – Elmore, McNeil, Jackson and 20 other sponsors
This bill amends GS20-138.2B to add first responders’ vehicles to the list of other vehicles in which it is unlawful to drink and drive OR have any alcohol remaining in the driver’s body while driving.  A first offense is a class 3 misdemeanor with a $100.00 fine.  A second or subsequent offense is punishable as a conviction of DWI.
 
This law does not apply to undercover law enforcement personnel while engaged in their official duties.
LAST ACTION: RATIFIED AND SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
STATUS: PASSED
                  CH. SL. 2013-105
 
 
PBA thanks our friends in the General Assembly, especially Representative Dollar and Cotham who fought through a long day for HB643 with debate and voting on the bill finally ending around midnight on May 15, 2013.  Representative Cotham who was eight months pregnant at the time stayed on the House floor until the final vote whereupon she excused herself from the rest of the session.
 
Thanks also go out to Representatives Avila, Fisher, Floyd, Glazier, Jeter, Jordan, Moore and Szoka who worked tirelessly to assist PBA during the session.
 

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