Special to Iredell Free News

RALEIGH — State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell and the Retirement Systems Division (RSD) announced Tuesday that almost $1 million has been sent to survivors of nine public safety officers murdered in the line of duty.

The additional payments were authorized as part of “Conner’s Law” that was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2019 as HB 283 and funded in House Bill 425 this year.

The funding measure for the new law went into effect July 1 and is retroactive to July 1, 2016, which means it will apply to qualifying deaths occurring on or after that date. This retroactivity provision includes the families of the corrections officers who were murdered by inmates on Oct. 12, 2017, at Pasquotank Correctional Institution during the deadliest prison escape attempt in the state’s history.

Rep. Brenden Jones, who represents the 46th District in Columbus and Robeson counties, was the lead primary sponsor of the original HB 283. Sen. Danny Britt, whose 13th District includes Columbus and Robeson counties, was the lead primary sponsor of the companion bill in the Senate, SB 306.

Legislative leadership was instrumental in securing passage on unanimous bipartisan votes, 119-0 in the House and 46-0 in the Senate.

The legislation is in honor of slain Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Conner, who was murdered during a routine traffic stop in October 2018. In addition to providing a supplemental payment to the families of public safety officers murdered in the line of duty, HB 283 also increased the criminal penalty for assaulting a law enforcement officer, probation officer, parole officer, or emergency personnel with a firearm or other weapon.

“Kevin was a dear friend for many years. We are glad we could not only honor his legacy, but also provide meaningful funds to help other families who suffered such a tragic loss,” Jones and Britt said in a joint statement. “We want them to know that their loved ones will never be forgotten. The State of North Carolina will always honor their memories and stand by our Corrections and law enforcement employees.”

The payments were made by RSD as part of its ongoing responsibilities to administer line-of-duty death benefits, retirement, and disability programs for more than 35,000 public safety workers actively employed by the state and local governments in North Carolina and more than 15,000 volunteer firefighters and rescue squad workers.

“As a former legislator, I acknowledge the thought that in a perfect world laws like this wouldn’t be necessary,” Treasurer Folwell said.

“Those that teach, protect and otherwise serve don’t call the Treasurer’s Office to book a cruise. They call because of life-changing events. Most are blessings. These are not,” Treasurer Folwell said. “No song, smell or other sense will ever be the same for these victims’ families, friends and communities.”

The North Carolina Retirement Systems is the ninth-largest public pension fund in the country and is currently valued at more than $107 billion. It provides retirement benefits and savings for more than 950,000 North Carolinians, including teachers, state employees, local governments, firefighters, police officers and other public workers.

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