March 3, 2017
Good news, bad news for open government
legislators are just beginning to settle into the current session but
have already filed more than 300 bills for consideration.
Constitutional amendments, repeal and/or changes to environmental laws,
and steps to change some elected offices from nonpartisan to partisan
are just some of the topics gaining legislative attention.
Local officials, Sen. Bill Cook, R-Chowinity, Rep. Beverly Boswell,
R-Kill Devil Hills, and Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Edenton have been busy
filing their want-list of legislation.
Cook, for the second time, has filed Senate Bill 77
that if enacted into state law, would make violations of the
State's Open Government Laws a Class 3 misdemeanor. First filed in
2015, that bill was sent to the House Rules Committee where it
languished until dead.
Currently, violations of the Open Records and Open Meetings Laws are
not deemed criminal and the only penalty is possibly paying attorneys
fees for complainants if found guilty in a court of law.
Both Boswell and Steinburg are sponsors of House Bill 161,
Divestment From Companies That Boycott Israel. The bill instructs the
State Treasurer to identify companies that boycott doing business with
Israel and to divest the state from any contracts or investments with
Cook also is a sponsor of Senate Bill 131,
Regulatory Reform Act of 2016, which, among other things, states that
agencies can respond to public records requests by making the
information downloadable via the internet and that those means would
satisfy the law.
If the agency chooses to do so, it may make the records available
through other means such as paper copies and negotiate a fee for doing
so. The language does not include an exemption for requesters who do
not have internet services or other necessary equipment.
The bill also seeks to remove from Wildlife Resource Commission,
Utilities Commission and the Marine Fisheries Commission records
personal information from the public records. That information includes
a person's mailing address, residence address, e-mail address,
Commission-issued customer identification number, date of birth, and
That same bill aims to repeal or substantially change many
environmental-related laws regarding private wells, land use plans,
file comments with federal authorities in relation to increasing the
threshold for the requirement of mitigation for loss of stream bed of
perennial or ephemeral/intermittent streams from 150 linear feet to 300
A number of statutes mandating regular reporting on programs and
situations are targeted for repeal including fish kill activity.
An annual report on the progress of implementing the Coastal Habitat
Protection Plans would be reduced to reports only in years when
significant revisions are made to the plans.
The Coastal Habitat Protection Plans were requested by the commercial
fishing community to be included in the Fisheries Reform Act of 1997.
Although included in the legislation, environmental groups refused to
support a mandated effective date for completion of the plans. Two
decades later, the plans have never been fully implemented.
Rep. Steinburg is a sponsor of HB 148,
which is a request for a referendum on a proposal to repeal Section 10,
Article VI of the North Carolina Constitution. That section mandates
that to vote, one must be able to read and write in English.
To obtain citizenship status, immigrants must pass a test showing that
they meet that requirement so the removal of the literacy clause would
only affect those born in the US.
Boswell is a sponsor on another proposed amendment to the state Constitution, HB 146. The bill seeks to remove the word “government” from Section 5 which is titled “Allegiance to the United States.”
Currently, the section states: “Every citizen of this State owes
paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the
United States, and no law or ordinance of the State in contravention or
subversion thereof can have any binding force."
Boswell also is a sponsor of HB 62
which, if enacted, would require doctors to tell patients that if they
have only taken the first of two drugs used for drug-induced abortion,
they can choose not to take the second and reverse the abortion by
taking hormones. According to WRAL, both the American Medical
Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists say there's no scientific evidence that trying to do so
would be safe or effective.after taking the first of two drugs. It
would also require women to return to the doctor's office and undergo a
second exam before being given the second drug.
The freshman Boswell also has introduced HB 163 which seeks to define
life as beginning at inception and is an attempt to ban abortion. In
response to questions from the Voice last week, Boswell wrote: “The
Supreme Court declared it could not resolve “the difficult question of
when life begins. But the 14th Amendment states no state shall “deprive
any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law,”
Boswell said. “The State of North Carolina should settle the question
the Supreme Court said it could not resolve.”