A new year will bring new laws. Below is a roundup of notable laws effective Jan. 1.
• Replacing the state’s expiring 25 percent refundable tax credit for movie and television projects is a smaller grant program capped at $10 million for the remainder of the fiscal year. Feature films will have to spend at least $5 million, and TV episodes at least $250,000, to qualify. Each project may receive a maximum of $5 million. The amount allocated for the new program, which the legislature may re-up or modify, contrasts with the $60 million to $80 million a year the film industry has claimed under the expiring tax credit.
• New magistrates have a mandatory retirement age to consider. Those whose terms begin on or after Jan. 1 will have to step down at the mandatory retirement age for justices and judges of the General Court of Justice. Currently, that age is 72.
• Pension-spiking prevention arrives. Going into law is a contribution-based benefit cap affecting government employees salaried at $100,000 a year or more. It’s meant to stop boosts in pension when near-retirement employees get raises or convert allowance funds to salary. The News & Observer reported in 2013 that presidents and boards of four community colleges in North Carolina converted allowances into pay and juiced their pensions, which the taxpayer-supported retirement system will have to subsidize.
• DHHS will manage mental health drugs with an aim to save $12 million annually. The law says it would achieve that with adjustments to the preferred drug list to maximize supplemental rebates and with a utilization review, among other new restrictions. Because the plan goes into effect mid-fiscal year, savings in 2014-15 are expected to be $6 million. A report on the progress is expected no later than October.
• Firefighters in North Carolina will be subject to criminal background checks. That’s in a House bill that passed unanimously this summer to expand the previous law that only subjected job applicants – rather than any current firehouse employee – to background checks.
• Sales of items to real property contractors for on-the-job use are taxed, as part of the base-broadening the 2013 tax reform package. The law will also define the difference between a real property contractor, who buys goods for construction and repair jobs, and a “retailer contractor,” who sells those goods.
• For occupational licensure and certification, the state’s licensing boards must list specific criteria that military experience already satisfies. Those criteria will be posted on the websites of the boards and the N.C. Division of Veterans Affairs. This is in a section of law meant to credit members of the military for their special know-how. If a member of the military applies for a license in a regulated occupation and doesn’t meet the criteria, the licensing board will have 30 days to tell that applicant why.
• The motor fuels tax refund for taxicabs is repealed, saving an expected $69,000 in fiscal year 2014-15.
Benjamin Brown writes for NCInsider.com, a government news service owned by The News & Observer.