Legislative building

The North Carolina State Legislative Building is located in Raleigh.

RALEIGH — Multiple bills have recently been signed into law, including one that gives more dignity to women who are incarcerated during pregnancy and labor.

Here are a some of the bills recently signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper.

House Bill 769: An Act to Provide a Bill of Rights Recognizing the Rights of Foster Parents in the State of North Carolina

This bill provides a lists of rights for foster parents in North Carolina. The bill contains 14 total rights for foster parents in North Carolina in an effort to ensure foster parents are treated with dignity and respect, according to the bill.

The first right is that foster parents can serve as a respected member of the child welfare team, regardless of religion, race, color, creed, gender, gender identity, marital status, national origin, age, physical handicap or sexual orientation.

Another right for foster parents listed in the bill is that they can receive information about the responsibilities of foster parents and access to support services, including required training and resources to “ensure preparedness for caring for children experiencing loss and trauma.”

Gov. Roy Cooper signed HB 769 into law on Sept. 10.

“This legislation strengthens parent-child bonds and makes improvements to our foster care systems so all children can grow up in a safe and supportive environment,” Cooper said n a statement.

It passed 104-0 in the House and 42-0 in the Senate with both Rep. Ray Pickett (R — Blowing Rock) and Sen. Deanna Ballard (R — Watauga) voting in favor.

More information on HB 769 can be found at www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2021/Bills/House/PDF/H769v6.pdf.

House Bill 608: An Act to Promote the Dignity of Women who are Incarcerated

HB 608 provides protections for incarcerated women who are pregnant. Signed into law on Sept. 10, this bill limits use of restraints on a pregnant incarcerated person during the second and third trimester of pregnancy, during labor and delivery, and during the postpartum recovery period.

It also states that no “correctional facility employee, other than a certified health care professional, shall conduct body cavity searches of a female incarcerated person who is pregnant or in the postpartum recovery period unless the correctional facility employee has probable cause to believe that the female incarcerated person is concealing contraband that presents an immediate threat of harm to the female incarcerated person, the fetus, or another person.”

It passed 44-0 in the Senate and 103-0 in the House with both Pickett and Ballard voting in favor.

“This legislation takes important steps to protect women who are incarcerated during and after pregnancy and labor,” Cooper said in a statement after signing the bill.

Criminal Justice Reform Bills

On Sept. 2, Cooper signed three criminal justice reform bills into law, which align with recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice (TREC), according to the governors office.

“We have seen that the criminal justice system doesn’t always treat everyone the same – and too often the differences are disproportionately felt by people of color,” Cooper said. “This legislation will take us one step further toward a more equitable and just North Carolina for all.”

The governor was joined by TREC Co-Chair Attorney General Josh Stein, along with Senators Toby Fitch and Mujtaba Mohammed and bill sponsor Representative John Szoka. TREC members, law enforcement and advocates for criminal justice reform were also in attendance when Cooper signed the bills in to law.

House Bill 436: Support Law Enforcement Mental Health

HB 436 requires law enforcement go through psychological screenings prior to certification or employment.

It also looks to require education of law enforcement officers on maintaining good mental health and to provide information to law enforcement officers on mental health resources available.

HB 436 passed in the Senate 44-0 and 103-0 in the House with Pickett and Ballard voting in favor.

More information on HB 436 can be found at www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2021/Bills/House/PDF/H436v5.pdf.

House Bill 536: Law Enforcement Duty to Intervene

HB536 creates a duty for law enforcement officers to intervene and report excessive use of force by a fellow law enforcement officer and requires that the National Decertification Index be searched as part of officer certification.

The bill states that if a law enforcement officer, while in the line of duty, who observes another law enforcement officer use force against another person that the observing officer reasonably believes exceeds the amount of force authorized” according to the bill, if that officer “possesses a reasonable opportunity to intervene, shall, if it is safe to do so, attempt to intervene to prevent the use of excessive force.”

HB 536 passed in the Senate 42-0 and 103-0 in the House with both Pickett and Ballard voting in favor.

More information on HB 536 can be found at www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2021/Bills/House/PDF/H536v3.pdf.

Senate Bill 300: Criminal Justice Reform

SB 300 make changes to improve policing and criminal justice in North Carolina, as recommended by TREC. According to the governor’s office, those changes include:

  • Promotes recruitment of officers with diverse backgrounds and experiences and improves training so that officers are better equipped to be successful
  • Requires early intervention mechanisms to identify and correct officers who use excessive force or other misconduct
  • Furthers independent investigations of police-involved shootings
  • Limits local laws that criminalize poverty
  • Requires a first appearance in court within 72 hours of a person being arrested

It passed in the House 102-2 and 42-0 in the Senate with both Pickett and Ballard voting in favor.

More information on SB 300 can be found at www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2021/Bills/Senate/PDF/S300v7.pdf.

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