Eleven new pieces of N.C. legislation go into effect Dec. 1, tightening the reins on issues ranging from handgun permits to Medicaid fraud.
Here is a breakdown of three of the new laws and how they could affect the Triangle area:
Domestic violence protection
One piece of legislation makes it a felony for any recipient of a restraining order to trespass into a shelter where the protected party resides, regardless of whether the victim is there.
Beverly Kennedy, executive director of the Family Violence Prevention Center of Orange County, said she was extremely pleased with the legislature’s action, but she thinks the law does not provide equal protection because it only covers those who are in a government-approved shelter.
“The same level of protection is not being offered to victims who may still be going to work or picking up their children at school,” she said.
Kennedy pointed out homeless shelters, a common refuge for women affected by domestic violence, do not qualify for this protection.
“Most of the people we see day-to-day do not go into shelters,” Kennedy said. “They continue to live in the community.”
Named after a dog who was beaten and burned, Susie’s Law raises animal cruelty crimes from misdemeanors to felonies.
Alex Lane, coleader of UNC’s Helping Paws, said the law should be the first of many changes.
“We’re very excited to see some progressive legislation,” she said, “particularly in a state like North Carolina, which has traditionally not been a state with a lot of animal protection laws in the books.”
Ashley Russo, another coleader of the organization, said animals should not be treated like objects of abuse.
“If a human had been set on fire, that would be considered attempted murder and would not have been taken as lightly,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Despite the recent legislation, Lane said she believes more is needed.
“It doesn’t go far enough,” she said. “It does allow for jail time, but I do think we need tougher statutes than even Susie’s Law provides.”
Ban on sweepstakes cafes
Sweepstakes cafes across the state will be forced to close their doors because of a new law which bans the use of electronic sweepstakes machines.
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, voted in favor of banning such facilities across the Triangle, adding the cafes encourage addictive activity.
“There were instances of people playing eight or nine hours a day there, playing over and over,” she said. “It preys on people’s insecurities and hopes, and it doesn’t have a particularly helpful outcome in the sense that they are not working during that period and doing other normal life activities.”
Kinnaird said the lawmakers’ biggest concern is that the sweepstakes companies, which were making millions every month, may find a loophole and send legislatures back to the drawing board.
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