RALEIGH — As the state budget standoff enters a new month, the N.C. General Assembly continues to work as its long session, which started in January, continues.
New laws have passed and gone into effect, such as new license plate requirements, rideshare regulations and an incentive for volunteer firefighters.
New license plate every seven years
Starting in July 2020, Session Law 2019-227 requires motorists to obtain a new license plate every seven years, per the language of the bill signed into law on Sept. 27.
“Existing plates must be replaced with new registration plates if, upon the date of renewal, the plate is seven or more years old or will become seven or more years old during the registration period,” the law states.
Replacement of regular license plates that are at least seven years old will start in July 2020 and the replacement of special registration plates will begin July 2021, upon renewal.
The purpose of the law is to gradually improve the reflectivity of license plates issued by the state, as it states that the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles are to develop reflectivity standards “that use the most current technology available while maintaining a competitive bid process.”
S.L. 2019-227, which was approved unanimously by the state House and Senate, is a N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles ombud bill that also further defines electric vehicles, no longer requires a signature line on a motor vehicle registration and makes other regulatory changes.
Lifetime hunting and fishing license fee reduction for volunteer firefighters
Volunteer firefighters in North Carolina who have served for five consecutive years will be eligible to purchase a lifetime hunting and fishing license from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for only half of the full cost.
Session Law 2019-204 passed the N.C. General Assembly and then signed into law on Aug. 27 by Gov. Roy Cooper.
“Over the past few years, volunteer fire departments have seen declining membership around the state and the hope is that the opportunity to receive a lifetime license at such a steep discount will be an important recruiting tool for departments around the state,” N.C. Sens. Warren Daniel (R-Avery), Danny Britt (R-Robeson) and Ted Alexander (R-Cleveland) said in a Sept. 30 joint statement.
“We hope this is just the beginning of a more comprehensive approach to recruiting and retaining the volunteer firefighters that our communities so desperately need. We are very thankful to these firefighters who selflessly put their lives on the line for their neighbors, and hope they will take advantage of this new opportunity,” the bill stated.
Currently, a lifetime inland fishing and hunting license is $500 before discount.
Rideshare safety law takes effect
Drivers from companies such as Uber and Lyft now must have a legible front license plate, and future provisions require illuminated signage, according to a bill signed into law on Aug. 9.
The front license plate requirement goes into effect on Oct. 1, according to Session Law 2019-194. Illuminated signage identifying a ridesharing vehicle will be required starting July 1, 2020.
“Today marks a huge improvement in the safety of ridesharing in North Carolina,” said Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne) “These new safeguards will help keep our citizens safe and hopefully serve as a national model for other states. I am proud to have helped lead this bipartisan effort to make ridesharing safer in North Carolina.”
The bill also makes it a criminal penalty to impersonate a rideshare driver and a misdemeanor to assault a rideshare driver.
According to Bell, the law comes after the murder of University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson by a man impersonating her Uber driver.