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Alcohol social districts, Mickey Hutchens bills clear state House
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Alcohol social districts, Mickey Hutchens bills clear state House

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The state House cleared Thursday a bipartisan bill that would allow cities and counties to designate social districts with a focus on downtowns and alcohol consumption.

House Bill 781, titled “Bring business back to downtown,” was introduced Monday and was approved by a 103-7 vote Thursday. It has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would be effective immediately if signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper.

The House also cleared House Bill 417 by a 112-0 vote and has been sent to the Senate.

HB417 would allow some law-enforcement officers to purchase up to four years’ worth of credits in the state employees’ retirement system.

A third bill with local ties, bipartisan Senate Bill 145, has been sent to the Senate Rules and Operations committee.

It would authorize the city of Winston-Salem to convey city-owned real property for the purpose of increasing the supply of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income individuals.

The bill would not allow the use of eminent domain to make property available.

House Bill 250, a companion bill to SB145, has advanced to House Rules and Operations committee.

House Bill 781

House Bill 781 would allow consumers to buy and carry alcoholic beverages within the social district as long as they were purchased from certain ABC permittees in the district.

Eligible items include malt beverages, unfortified and fortified wine and mixed beverages.

“This bill would remove the barrier of buying an alcoholic beverage in a bar or restaurant and having to drink it or leave it upon leaving the restaurant ... as long as it is consumed in the social district,” said Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Henderson, and co-primary sponsor of HB781.

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said Wednesday his first impression of HB781 is that “I would have some concerns about safety and image of our downtown area.”

Alcoholic beverages sold and consumed in the social district would have to contain the identification of the ABC permittee and a logo or mark unique to the social district.

Glass containers would not be permitted, there would be a 16-ounce limit on a single alcoholic beverage, and only one alcoholic beverage per customer at a time.

Cities and counties could authorize allowing those ABC permittees to extend their licensed premises for the purposes of maintaining social distancing.

The social districts would have to be clearly designated with signs posted that indicate the days and hours that alcoholic beverages could be consumed in the social districts.

Consumers would be able to carry their alcoholic beverages off the premises where they were purchased, but not out of the social district.

Cities and counties would have to establish management and maintenance plans for the social district on their respective websites. They also could permanently designate the ABC permittees’ outdoor space as part of the social district.

House Bill 417

Both HB417 and companion Senate Bill 381 are titled “The Sergeant Mickey Hutchens Act” after the Winston-Salem police officer who died in the line of duty in October 2009.

The bills would allow law-enforcement, probation/parole and correctional officers who hold an advanced law enforcement or corrections certificate “to purchase at full cost up to four years’ creditable services in either the teachers and state employees’ or the local government employees’ retirement system.”

The certificate must be issued by either the N.C. Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards commission or the N.C. Sheriff’s Education and Training Standards commission.

The bill, if signed into law, would go into effect July 1.

Senate Bill 145

Two real-property conveyance bills contain similar language as House Bill 59 that passed the state House in 2019, but was not addressed in the Senate.

City manager Lee Garrity said the goal of the bill is “to clarify the authority of cities to sell real property by private sale, and to attach restrictive covenants and conditions for purposes that are not clearly authorized by law.”

“The purpose of the bill is to give the city clear authority to convey city owned property ... so that the city can be assured that the property will be used for affordable housing for low-and-moderate income persons for the requisite time period.”

Garrity said that “there may be situations, due to the developer’s financing options, that warrant conveyance without financial consideration.”

“This bill affords the city the flexibility to consider situations of said nature. In all cases, the real property will be subject to restrictive covenants and conditions to guarantee the use of said property for affordable housing purposes.”

“Should the property cease to be used for said purpose, the property will revert to the city.”

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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