RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - A bill named after a state trooper killed in the line of duty has not moved in North Carolina’s Senate chamber in more than a month, and there is conflicting information on what has stalled its’ progression.
House Bill 283, also called Conner’s Law, toughens the punishment for anyone convicted of assault with a firearm on law enforcement, probation and parole officers, or assault with a deadly weapon against other emergency responders. The bill also provides an extra death benefit for families of public safety workers killed in the line of duty. It is named after former North Carolina State Trooper Kevin Conner, who was shot and killed last October while making a traffic stop in Columbus County.
The bill passed the state house by a unanimous 119-0 vote in March. Senate lawmakers moved the bill through several committees in June and placed it on the calendar for a floor vote on July 2nd. That started a month-long sequence of the bill being withdrawn and placed back on the calendar for the next senate session. That happened nine times. In several sessions to start the month of August, HB283 remained on the senate calendar without senators taking any action. The bill was withdrawn from the senate calendar again today, and put back on the calendar for Wednesday.
“Conner’s Law is a great bill and has major support in the Senate,” Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said in an email. “The one problem is that, in the bill as written, there’s no funding mechanism to pay the increased death benefits to the families of those brave men and women killed in the line of duty. The last thing we’d ever want is to pass a great bill like this without putting any money behind it. We’re working through the options now, and we think everybody can agree that it’s worth a minor delay to ensure increased death benefits are properly funded.”
One of the bill’s original sponsors, Rep. Brenden Jones (R-Columbus), told WECT the funding would be done through the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
“A funding source has been identified in the budget, however the Governor’s veto is holding up the funds for this crucial legislation,” Rep. Jones said, referring to the budget stalemate between GOP leaders in the General Assembly and Gov. Roy Cooper. Gov. Cooper vetoed the budget bill that passed the legislature, and both sides have blamed each other since for a lack of movement toward finding a compromise. Until a new deal is reached, state government is running on levels set in the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.
Chauncey Askew is charged with first-degree murder for the death of Trooper Conner. Raheem Davis is charged with accessory after the fact. Both are in custody awaiting trial.