New N.C. laws effective Jan. 1, 2015

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, January 1, 2015

by Leah Justice

North Carolinians will face new laws beginning on Thursday, Jan. 1, affecting driving while impaired offenses, elections, taxes, wildlife fee increases, background checks for firefighters and EMS, film incentive cuts and state employees.

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New driving laws

Anyone sentenced for driving while impaired offenses on or after Jan. 1, 2015 will serve a sentence in a local jail, not the state prison system.

Also, effective Jan. 1, 2015, the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is required to issue a single annual validation sticker for a license plate.

New election law

A change in election laws, effective Jan. 1, is that a candidate cannot file in a party’s primary election unless they have been affiliated with that party for at least 90 days. A candidate will also have to file economic statements with the state ethics commission instead of the board of elections.


Income taxes will see the biggest change in 2015 with the General Assembly instituting a flat tax of 5.8 percent.

Currently, the highest earners pay as much as 7.5 percent of their income in state taxes, middle income earners pay seven percent and the lower earners pay six percent.

Other changes include a new sales tax on university dining hall meals, manufactured homes, live entertainment, sporting events and movie tickets.

The corporate income tax rate was also reduced to five percent in 2015. The General Assembly also clarified exemptions from tax for events sponsored by elementary and secondary schools and certain nonprofit events. Also starting in 2015, the quarterly refund for motor fuel excise taxes paid for taxicabs is repealed.

Wildlife fees

Several licenses for hunting and fishing will increase in 2015. Fees increased include for a resident annual combination hunting and inland fishing license from $20-$25; an annual sportsman license for a N.C. resident from $40-$50; a nonresident lifetime sportsman license from $1,000-$1,200 and the age for a resident lifetime sportsman license raised from age 65 to age 70, among other changes in licenses.

Background checks

The General Assembly authorized criminal background checks for firefighters and emergency medical service personnel, including those who volunteer effective Jan. 1.

Film incentive cuts

The Film and Entertainment Grant Fund within the N.C. Department of Commerce can provide grants for video productions in North Carolina, but funds can’t be used unless the production meets minimum qualifying expenses of $5 million for films, $250,000 per episode of a television show and $250,000 for commercials.

About $10 million is appropriated to fund those grants, which will expire July 1, 2020. There were $61 million in tax credits received for productions in North Carolina in 2013.

State employees

Beginning Jan. 1, an anti-pension-spiking contribution-based benefit cap and a contribution-based benefit cap purchase provision will be added to both the teacher and state employees’ retirement system and the local government employee retirement system.

Members of those systems, and those in the legislative retirement system and consolidated judicial retirement system who leave employment within five years can receive their contributions and accumulated interest.

To see the full list of new legislation in North Carolina for 2015, visit