North Carolina's State Capitol Building

North Carolina's state Capitol building in Raleigh, N.C.

(The Center Square) – A bill to allow public officials to benefit more from public contracts is on its way to the North Carolina House.

Senate Bill 366 would raise the current limit on the conflict-of-interest exemption for government officials and government employees in certain instances.

The Senate unanimously approved the measure, 46-0, on Wednesday without debate. Senators also approved three mostly technical amendments to the bill. It now heads to the House for review.

State law allows elected officials, school board members and other local board members in municipalities and counties with no more than 15,000 residents to benefit from public contracts in certain instances. Any member of a board of directors of a public hospital, regardless of the population, also can qualify for conflict-of-interest exemption under current law.

SB 366 would raise the cap on the public contracts from $40,000 to $60,000 within a year for goods and services that are not medically related. It also increases the population limit from 15,000 residents to 20,000 residents. The cap for medically related contracts will remain at $20,000 within a year.

The measure also changes state regulations related to agriculture, energy, environment, natural resources, construction and insurance. It directs the North Carolina Department of Revenue to provide the Revenue Laws Study Committee information on the taxes for outdoor advertising signs and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety to examine ways to improve access to its interstate system.

Notably, it also would require facilities that participate in the state's preschool education program to provide parents with private and public school options for kindergarten, starting Jan. 1.

Under the measure, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Childhood Development and Early Education must post public and charter schools and scholarship information for local counties. Preschools in the program must let parents know where to find the information and be able to provide a list to parents if prompted.

A controversial portion of the bill that would have classified people staying in hotels for less than 90 days as "transient occupants" and not tenants did not make it in the floor version of the bill Wednesday. Housing advocates argued that it would have allowed hotels to remove people without getting a court-ordered eviction.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.