Monday, October 02, 2006

Legislative Recap

The following is a list of some new laws that took effect on October 1, 2006, which will make our neighborhoods safer, reform our campaign finance laws, and better protect our schoolchildren and consumers. Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information on these issues or any others that were considered by the General Assembly during this year’s session.

Schoolchildren’s Health Act (S.L. 1006-143, HB 1502) – As of October 1, 2006, the “Schoolchildren’s Health Act” requires several environmental health changes benefiting children in public schools in North Carolina: schools must come up with a plan to keep buses from idling too long; schools will have to limit the use of pesticides, mercury, and arsenic-treated wood; and, schools will have to notify parents within 72 hours of spraying in and around schools. Also, schools must notify parents of the existence of mold and mildew in schools. Further, schools are banned entirely from using arsenic-treated wood on playgrounds. The “Schoolchildren’s Health Act” uses common-sense, low-cost, and even cost-savings measures to reduce student and staff exposure to hazardous contaminants in school buildings.

First Phase of Video Poker Ban Takes Effect (S.L. 2006-6, SB 912) – Video poker machines will be banned in North Carolina beginning on July 1, 2007, and the estimated 10,000 current machines were required to be reduced by one-third on October 1. The new law requires machine owners or businesses to downsize from their current maximum of three machines to two, and from two machines to one machine by March 1, 2007. Current machine owners must sell their machines to individuals outside of North Carolina or to the Cherokee Casino in western North Carolina, which will be allowed to continue operating under the new ban.

Protecting Consumers Against Identity Theft (S.L. 2005-414, SB 1048 & S.L. 2006-173, HB 1248) – Legislators approved far-reaching identity theft protections during the 2005 session, most of which became law previously. On October 1, the remainder of this new law took effect, which will provide additional protections of an individual’s social security number. Businesses will no longer be able to: (1) intentionally communicate or make available to the general public an individual’s social security number; (2) intentionally print or imbed a individual’s social security number on any card required for the individual to access products or services provided by the business; (3) require an individual to transmit his or her social security number over the Internet, unless the connection is secure or the social security number is encrypted; (4) require an individual to use his or her social security number to access and Internet website, unless a password or unique personal identification number or other authentication device is also required to access the website; and (5) print an individual’s social security number on any materials that are mailed to an individual, unless the state or federal government requires the social security number to be on the document to be mailed.

During this year’s session, legislators also approved a bill (S.L. 2006-173, HB 1248), which requires local and state governments that suffer a security breach that could lead to identity theft to inform citizens of the breach. The new law will require governments and public agencies to follow the same requirement as businesses and must alert customers when confidential information is compromised. The corporate requirement passed in 2005 as part of a broad identity theft prevention law (Identity Theft Protect Act of 2005; SB 1048). The Secretary of State’s Office will have one year to meet a requirement to keep personal identifying information off of its website, which currently contains an estimated 500,000 online records. During that time, the office will be required to study how to remove personal data from documents already available through its website.

Safety Training Required for ATV Drivers (S.L. 2005-282, SB 189) – A new law took effect last December that prohibits the operation of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) by people less than eight years old, requires eight to fifteen year old ATV drivers to only ride on vehicles with smaller engines, and makes it unlawful for a parent or legal guardian of a child under 16 years of age to permit that child to operate an ATV without constant supervision of a person 18 years old or older. Now, every ATV operator born on or after January 1, 1990, must also have a safety certificate indicating successful completion of an all-terrain vehicle safety course sponsored or approved by the All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute.

Permitted Uses of Campaign Funds (S.L. 2006-161, HB 1845) – Candidates and campaigns will only be able to use campaign funds for expenses related to their campaigns and office-holding duties and will be prohibited from using the funds for personal use under a new law that took effect on October 1. Under the new law, campaign funds may be used for the following campaign purposes: ordinary expenditures made in connection with the candidate’s campaign or with fulfilling the duties of elected office; donations to certain charitable organizations (not one where the spouse or child of the candidate is employed), to a political party, or to another candidate; to return contributions to a contributor; or for the payment of penalties assessed against the candidate’s campaign committee by a board of election or court. The bill also prevents heirs of deceased candidates from inheriting campaign money.

Citizens Beware: Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams on the Rise

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper recently issued a warning to consumers and banks about lottery and check scams. Nearly 400 people have told state officials about losing money in lottery schemes this year – just under the total for all of last year. Lottery-scam complaints to the Charlotte-region Better Business Bureau about lottery scams are up 80 percent from a year ago to more than 1,400. Lottery scams have been around for years, usually aimed at the elderly, but complaints are growing because crooks now also target younger victims, hoping to take money from less experienced consumers.

The schemes usually start small, such as a letter requesting a processing fee of $25 to $50 in order to win $1 million, but they can escalate and cost some unwitting consumers well into the thousands with bogus checks meant to cover fees. Some people have lost more than $100,000. More elaborate scams often require victims to send more money to receive their winnings, but offer to repay them with a check. Victims send the scammers the fee, usually around $1,000 to $5,000, and then try to cash the bogus check they receive later at their bank.

Here are some warning signs that the check you got in the mail is a fake:

  • You’ve been told that you’ve won a lottery called “El Mundo,” “El Gordo” or from a foreign country such as Canada, Costa Rica or Australia.
  • You’re told to wire, send, or ship money immediately to a large U.S. city or abroad, especially to England, Canada, or Nigeria.
  • You’ve posted an item for sale online and receive a check for more than your asking price.
  • You’re told that you can receive a commission for transferring money through your account.
  • You get an email or telephone request to confirm, update or provide your personal account information.

North Carolinians who receive what they suspect is a counterfeit check or get a call or letter claiming they’ve won a phony lottery should not respond. Instead, report the scam to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina.

Thanks for sharing your ideas and suggestions during the past two years. I deeply appreciate your support. Please continue to call on me if I can assist you in any way.



No comments: