FILE - North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has signed a bill supporters say will protect consumers from harmful products and services and offer more choices.

House Bill 624, dubbed the North Carolina Regulatory Sandbox Act, allows companies to temporarily offer trials of financial or insurance products or services to consumers without being subjected to certain licensing or other regulatory requirements. Backers of the bill hope it will propel North Carolina to the top of the technology industry and become a leader in innovation.

The measure received unanimous support in the House and the Senate. Cooper signed it Friday.

HB 624 creates a North Carolina Innovation Council to select insurance or financial companies or entrepreneurs for a two-year sandbox program. Those selected would be authorized to offer an "innovative" product or service, which is defined as a product or service that uses technology to address a problem, provide a benefit or create something novel in the state. Products could include cryptocurrency or blockchain technology.

The program will be overseen by either the Office of the Commissioner of Banks or the Department of Insurance, depending on the product or service being offered.

The 11-member North Carolina Innovation Council would include the commissioner of banks, commissioner of insurance, secretary of state and the attorney general or their designees. The governor and legislative leaders each would appoint two members from the public, and the lieutenant governor would assign one member from the public to the council.

Those who apply for the program would pay a $50 application fee and a $450 participation fee to the state. The council will determine whether to charge more fees for the program.

Raleigh-based free-market think-tank John Locke Foundation said a regulatory sandbox would keep North Carolina competitive and encourage more businesses to come to the state.

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