Wednesday, 17 February 2021 16:45

Moss backs bill to double fines for roadside littering in N.C.

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Roadside trash is a problem in Richmond County and across the state and a new bill would double littering fines. Roadside trash is a problem in Richmond County and across the state and a new bill would double littering fines. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

RALEIGH — Litterbugs could soon face stiffer fines for strewing garbage along North Carolina roadways.

House Majority Leader Dan Bell, R-Wayne, on Wednesday introduced the Highway Cleanup Act “to help address the growing litter problem across the state,” according to a press release.

“Like many North Carolinians, I am extremely frustrated and upset with the amount of trash and litter building up on the side of our roads,” Bell said in a statement. “As I travel and talk to people across the state, everyone agrees that something needs to be done to address the problem. This bipartisan legislation marks a starting point on what we can do from the state legislature to reduce littering and clean up our roadways.”

House Bill 100 doubles all littering-related fines and establishes the “Cops Clean NC” grant program, with the N.C. Department of Transportation setting aside $500,000 appropriated from the Highway Fund to provide money to sheriff’s offices of rural counties — those with a population less than 150,000 — to pay overtime for litter pickup. Eligible counties can receive up to $10,000.

The bill also requires the DOT to use another $500,000 to “raise awareness and program participation, through marketing and advertising” of anti-littering campaigns, including Adopt-A-Highway.

(NOTE: See a copy of the bill attached at the bottom of this story.)

“This new Cops Clean NC program will be an important step in cleaning up our roadways,” said Rep. Charlie Miller, who is also the chief deputy of the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office. “Litter on our highways has become increasingly prevalent not only in my district, but statewide. It is an unsightly, negative reflection of our scenic coastline and it has detrimental effects on the waterways and ecosystem. I ask for all North Carolinians to be more responsible, properly disposing of their trash, and checking that their cargo loads are secure before entering the roadway.”

Joining Bell and Miller as primary sponsors are Reps. Brenden Jones, R-Columbus, and Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford.

“I am excited to be working with Majority Leader Bell and my GOP colleagues on bipartisan legislation to clean up our highways and waterways,” said Harrison. “The bill is an important first step and I hope we can continue to look at ways to limit trash entering the waste stream.”

Rep. Ben Moss, R-Richmond, signed on to the bill as a co-sponsor.

During his years on the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, roadside garbage was an oft-mentioned topic, as County Manager Bryan Land incorporated local efforts into his monthly report.

“We must make penalties harsher and work to try and clean up our counties,” Moss told the RO. “Our citizens have constantly asked for help concerning this.”

In addition to Moss, 39 other state representatives have joined as co-sponsors.

According to Land, 415 bags and eight tires were picked up from 19 roads in January, accounting for 5.1 tons of trash. 

The solid waste enforcement officer also investigated two illegal dump sites and issued two citations, Land added.

During the February 2020 commissioners meeting, Sen. Tom McInnis gave “a myriad” of reasons why the price tag for prison labor was so high, including: insurance; the cost of time and overtime for officers who have prisoners “under the gun;” and the equipment.

“The part that we pay the prisoners … is insignificant,” McInnis said. “By the time you add all that other stuff, you can’t work ‘em in certain conditions — there’s more federal bureaucracy than anything else … the private contractors … (are) able to do it significantly cheaper.”

At that time, Land said he’d like to work with the state to “put some more legal teeth in this; get these folks in the court system and fine them.”

With this bill, the county manager appears to be getting his wish.

McInnis now co-chairs both the Senate Transportation and Appropriations on Transportation committees, so it’s likely the bill will make it to the Senate floor.

“I hate to take money out of people’s pockets, but if you’re gonna litter, you need to pay for it,” McInnis said last year. “Doggone it, quit littering. There ain’t no need in it.”


Last modified on Wednesday, 17 February 2021 16:53