A bill making various changes to state laws was passed on the final voting day of the North Carolina General Assembly’s short session. House Bill 250, approved by both chambers on Thursday, focuses on public safety and other changes.

Changes are made to automatic license plate readers, which state legislators authorized in a pilot program at the end of the 2023 long session. The program enables the NC Department of Transportation to collaborate with the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) to place and use automatic license plate reader systems within state-owned land or rights-of-way. 

Changes will allow the SBI to make agreements to use automatic license plate readers for federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies. Modifications to the program were criticized as “mission creep” by one Republican lawmaker.

Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Pamlico, was the sole Republican in both chambers who voted against the bill. Before the vote, he urged his colleagues to reject the legislation.

“This is a little bit of mission creep on the license plate reader. I find license plate readers to be an infringement on our rights,” said Kidwell. “It tracks our travel. There’s not to me enough safety. One of the points I made previously someone said, ‘well, don’t you trust your government?’ That’s why I’m here, because I don’t trust my government.”

Kidwell said if he did trust his government, he’s be sitting at home or out in catching fish on the Pamlico River. The deadline for the SBI’s reports is extended to 2026, and the pilot program will also run until 2026.

“The fact is, state and local law enforcement agencies share information with federal agencies all the time, and there are often legitimate reasons for doing so,” explained Jon Guze, a senior fellow in legal studies at the John Locke Foundation. “Nevertheless, this change means folks like me who worry about government agencies tracking our movements will have even more to worry about.”

Many other recent legislative efforts are tucked inside HB 250 as well, including the removal of residency requirements for veteran burials. 

The legislation adds tianeptine, the ‘gas station’ drug with addictive properties, to the Schedule II controlled substance list. A growing number of young adults are abusing the antidepressant for its euphoric properties similar to opioids like heroin.

SEE ALSO: Legislators prepare to regulate euphoric ‘gas station’ drug

Another provision in the bill restores driving privileges to some individuals whose licenses were revoked due to DWI charges. It will allow individuals who have a second driving while impaired offense to get a limited driving privilege as long as their vehicle has an ignition interlock system. The individual would be able to drive for certain essential purposes, including employment, education, and medical care. 

SEE ALSO: Bill restoring driving privileges for certain DWI offenders passes Senate

The bill also adds changes to county medical examiners’ offices. It clarifies what happens with a body when it’s at the medical examiner’s office and provides the district attorney’s office 72 hours to notify the medical examiner’s office if they intend to do an autopsy. 

It was sent to Gov. Cooper’s desk on Friday.