Cooper signs bill allowing officials to benefit more from public contracts

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill Monday that allows public officials to benefit more from public contracts.

House Bill 366 raises the limit on the conflict-of-interest exemption for government officials and government employees in certain instances and changes regulations related to agriculture, energy, environment, natural resources, construction and insurance.

After voting down the Senate's version of the bill Aug. 5, the House agreed to the current version of the bill last week.

State law allows elected officials, school board members and other local board members in municipalities and counties with no more than 15,000 residents to benefit from public contracts in certain instances. Any member of a board of directors of a public hospital, regardless of the population, also can qualify for conflict-of-interest exemption under current law.

HB 366 raises the cap on the public contracts from $40,000 to $60,000 within a year for goods and services that are not medically related. It also increases the population limit from 15,000 residents to 20,000 residents. The cap for medically related contracts stays at $20,000 within a year.

The bill specifies that secondary sources on insurance law, such as scholarly publications or textbooks, are not binding in North Carolina courts. It also reduces the resulting interest guarantee percentage from 1% to 0.15% for the state's minimum nonforfeiture rate. The minimum nonforfeiture rate guarantees that an insurance company can use an individual fixed annuity contract to determine its cash value.

The bill directs the North Carolina Department of Revenue to provide the Revenue Laws Study Committee information on the taxes for outdoor advertising signs and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety to examine ways to improve access to its interstate system.

Notably, it requires facilities that participate in the state's preschool education program to provide parents with private and public school options for kindergarten, starting Jan. 1.

The measure directs the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Childhood Development and Early Education to post public and charter schools and scholarship information for local counties. Preschools in the program will be required to let parents know where to find the information and be able to provide a list to parents if prompted.

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