Monday began the national celebration of Constitution Week. This weeklong commemoration of America’s most important document is one of our country’s least known official observances. Our Constitution stands as a testament to the tenacity of Americans throughout history to maintain their liberties and freedom, and to ensure those inalienable rights to every American.
The tradition of celebrating the Constitution was started many years ago by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). In 1955, the Daughters petitioned Congress to set aside Sept. 17-23 annually to be dedicated for the observance of Constitution Week. The resolution was later adopted by the U.S. Congress and signed into Public Law #915 on Aug. 2, 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The United States of America functions as a Republic under the Constitution, which is the oldest document still in active use that outlines the self-government of a people. This landmark idea that men had the inalienable right as individuals to be free and live their lives under their own governance was the impetus of the American Revolution. Today, the Constitution stands as an icon of freedom for people around the world. I think it also important to note that North Carolina awaited the addition of the “Bill of Rights,” the first 10 amendments to the Constitution before formally accepting it. Those basic rights are our assurance of liberty in this great nation.
The General Assembly continues to move closer to the 2013 session and while I will not be returning to the House next January, I am assisting other members as they prepare for the coming session. I continue to meet with constituents and interest groups here at home and in Raleigh. The Democrats’ focus remains job creation and economic development and the required systems such as education and infrastructure improvements needed to support our economy. I welcome your ideas about how we can put people back to work in our community, even as more of our teachers and other vital public servants continued to be fired as a result of the misplaced priorities of the majority party in Raleigh. Our state’s unemployment rate remains the fifth-worst in the nation under their leadership.
This week, I wanted to share some of the new laws that will go into place Oct. 1, many of which I supported. These laws will improve public safety in our state.
The General Assembly modernized its emergency management laws (HB 843) this past year, laying out the responsibilities of the governor and local authorities in the event of an emergency or disaster. The law also includes prohibitions against price-gouging and details what steps officials are permitted to take in the case of an emergency.
Motorists must now attempt to move over a lane on the roads so that workers in highway maintenance vehicles and utility vehicles who are working beside the road can operate safely. Previously the law only required motorists to move over for public safety vehicles, such as police cars or ambulances. (HB 345)
Street gangs and the property on which they operate can now be declared public nuisances under a new law (HB 673) approved this year.
The Metal Theft Prevention Act (HB 199) strengthens laws against the theft of precious metals by requiring permits for purchasers of certain metals and making it a specific crime to harm property during the theft of precious metals.
The names and addresses of minors involved in school bus crashes can now only be disclosed to the public in certain circumstances. (SB 227)
A new law creates the crime of unlawfully selling, surrendering or purchasing a minor. The law also requires the North Carolina Conference Of District Attorneys to study what other measures may be needed to stop this type of crime. (SB 910)
A wide-ranging law approved this past session creates a new first-degree trespass offense. The law (SB 141) also requires the Department Of Public Safety to continue to assist offenders trying to successfully reenter society and gives local crime labs and certain forensic scientists more time to obtain accreditation and certification.
Probation violators who abscond or try to avoid arrest will no longer be eligible for public assistance until they surrender to the courts. (HB 1173)
Last week, our nation marked the 11th anniversary since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I continue to stand behind the members of our military who were called upon to defend our country after that attack and my thoughts remain with the victims and their families.