Click on links below in the summary to be taken to more information on that bill.
SUMMARY OF BILLS/ISSUES
The 2011 session was adjourned June 18
UPDATE JUNE 2: With the Sunshine Amendment apparently KO'd, HB 87 apparently has been taken over for another issue not related to government openness.
UPDATE MAY 26: The Rules Committee took up a revised version of the bill on May 25, but it was narrowly defeated, 11-10. See the roll call vote. Democrats objected to it being a part of the Constitution. Some Republicans objected to removal of the "natural citizens" phrase fearing terrorists could then be entitled to make public records requests. You can read a story on the hearing here. (More stories on the bill available by clicking the "News reports" button below.)
On the House calendar for March 29, the bill was instead re-referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendars and Operations of the House.
That committee, which is chaired by Rep. Stephen LaRoque (R-Kinston) and Rep. Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) -- both of the primary sponsors of the bill -- previously reported out the bill favorably. However since the legislation left committee one amendment had already been passed with a second amendment from the floor pending.
The bill was brought to the House floor March 17 for second reading. Click here to see the amendment to the bill as passed by the House. After a second amendment was proposed from the floor that would make the legislation change state statutes instead of the Constitution, the bill was taken off the calendar. It has been rescheduled several times before being returned to committee. Click here to read about the floor debate from March 17.
This major piece of legislation amends Article XIV of the North Carolina Constitution to guarantee the right of citizens to access government meetings and records. The amendment would also make new restrictions on what information is public by requiring and future bills be passed by a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate.
The Senate version of the bill was filed on Feb. 15, sponsored by Sens. Debbie A. Clary; Tommy Tucker and Thom Goolsby, with 18 senators signing on as co-sponsors as of Feb. 16.
The Senate bill was forwarded to Committee on the Judiciary 1.
NOTE: Editorials on the bill from newspaper members are now available for viewing by clicking the button below.
The North Carolina Press Association is backing this bill and urges all its members to do likewise. See the full statement by clicking on the "NCPA statements" button below.
UPDATE JUNE 2: A hearing that was scheduled for today has been canceled.
UPDATE JUNE 1: This bill has been removed from the House Committee on the Judiciary A . It was reassigned to the Committee on Government. Click here for a list of committee members.
This legislation, titled the Government Transparency Act of 2011 helps to clear up any confusion about public access to the personnel records of government employees in North Carolina. In particular it expands the specific definition of what actions require a general description be available to the public so that it includes "each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification with that department, agency, institution, commission, or bureau." The bill also includes performance records, if kept.
In addition, the bill adds automatic recovery of attorney fees by plaintiffs in successful open meetings lawsuits. The language is similar to that approved last year for public records lawsuits.
Sponsors of the bill are Sen. Debbie Clary (R-Shelby), Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Waxhaw) and Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-Wilmington). Co-sponsors are Sen. Jim Davis (R-Franklin), Sen. James Forrester (R-Stanley), Sen. Kathy Harrington (R-Gastonia), Sen. Neal Hunt (R-Raleigh), Sen. Buck Newton (R-Nash and Wilson) and Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Southport).
As of April 6, no action had taken place on the bill in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary 1.
A companion bill was filed in the House on April 5 by Rep. John Blust (R-Greensboro). Co-sponsors are Rep. Glen Bradley (R-Youngsville) and Rep. Stephen LaRoque (R-Kinston).
We strongly urge all NCPA members to support this measure in editorials and by contacting their lawmakers.
This bill would add bite to the Open Meetings and Public Records laws of North Carolina by making violations Class 3 misdemeanors.
Primary sponsors of this bill are Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-Wilmington), Sen. Debbie Clary (R-Shelby) and Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Waxhaw). All three are also the primary sponsors of the Government Transparency Act of 2011 (SB 344). Co-sponsors are Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Hendersonville), Sen. Harry Brown (R-Jacksonville), Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Morganton), Sen. James Forrester (R-Stanley), Sen. Buck Newton (R-Nash,Wilson), Sen. David Rouzer (R-Raleigh) and Rep. Dan Soucek (R-Boone).
NCPA supports this bill.
UPDATE JUNE 14: The bill was removed from the agenda for the Finance Committee today. We will continue to monitor this legislation.
UPDATE JUNE 13: We have been informed that the crossover deadline was extended. SB 554 has been moved to the Senate Finance Committee after sponsors determined there were not enough votes in the Judiciary Committee to get it approved.
The Finance Committee is a large one. Click here to access a list of its members.
UPDATE JUNE 7: The Senate Committee on the Judiciary 1 had scheduled a meeting for June 7. No record available that it was heard.
You can access a list of the committee members by clicking here. We ask that NCPA members contact committee members to voice opposition to the weakening of public access.
The "technical" changes proposed in this bill represent some major limitations to the personnel records law adopted in 2010. In effect, the bill would create a form of a statute of limitations on public records. Under this bill, notices of dismissals, suspensions, and demotions for disciplinary reasons that are dated prior to Oct. 1, 2010, would no longer be considered a public record. Other records concerning the date and type of each increase or decrease in salary and to disclosure of the date and type of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification created prior to Oct. 1, 2007, would also no longer be considered public record. This bill would also make written dismissal notices for at-will employees unnecessary, meaning a public record would not exist for those firings.
Sen. Peter S. Brunstetter ( R-Forsyth) sponsored the bill, which was filed on April 12. There are no co-sponsors. Groups representing governmental units, schools and teachers support the bill. Officials claim complying with the law as it stands is too burdensome. This bill has been assigned to the Committee on Judiciary 1, which Brunstetter chairs.
NCPA opposes this legislation.
UPDATE MAY 24: Despite being defeated in a Committee on Government, HB 472 has be re-referred to the House Committee on Rules. We are being told now that the bill was reassigned to make sure it does not resurface elsewhere. Stay tuned.
UPDATE MAY 19: A hearing by the Committee on the Judiciary 1 was removed from today's calendar after having been put on it late last night. We will continue to monitor SB 773.
UPDATE MAY 12: The House Committee on Government voted to reject HB 472 on a vote of 21-10. This should kill off this bill, although the companion bill in the Senate, SB 773, could continue to pose a threat.
We recommend members review the roll call vote from the Committee on Government. Please praise editorially and thank those representatives who voted "no" on this bill.
Up until this bill, proposals introduced to permit governmental units to post public notices on the Internet instead of publishing them in newspapers, applied to individual communities and counties. Under this bill, all cities and counties would be allowed to post notices if they provide a link to them from the home page, post them on the required publication schedule and maintain the notices online for one year. They will have to print out one copy of the notice and file it. Nothing in the bill provides for proof of publication other than that single printout.
Primary sponsors of the bill are Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Hendersonville), Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam (R-Apex), Rep. Bill Owens (D-Elizabeth City) and Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Raleigh). Signed on as a co-sponsor is Rep. Marvin Lucas (D-Spring Lake).
The bill was assigned to the Committee on Government. Chairman of that committee is Rep. Larry Brown (R-Kernersville). Vice chairmen of the committee are Rep. Dan. W. Ingle (R-Burlington), Rep. James L. Boles Jr. (R-Southern Pines), Rep. James H. Langdon Jr. (R-Angier) and Rep. Harry Warren (R-Salisbury).
As with any of these bills that take public notices out of newspapers, where people will actually notice them, NCPA strongly opposes this bill. The concept of "public notices" has always been to make sure as many people as possible in a community are aware of actions being considered or taken by their governing bodies. Few people visit their town or county website on anything approaching a regular basis. Newspapers, on the other hand, through their printed products and digital products, are accessed by large numbers on a daily basis. Publishing public notices through the newspaper ensures they will be in a place that citizens go to for information already. Newspapers also provide an independent verification of publication that meets the requirements of the law.
A companion version of this bill (SB 773) was introduced in the Senate on April 19. Primary sponsor is Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie & Rowan counties). The sole co-sponsor is Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Morganton). The bill was assigned to the Committee on the Judiciary 1.
We urge all NCPA members to contact their legislators and encourage their readers to oppose this legislation.
Read the statement from NCPA on the filing of this bill
UPDATE JUNE 8: The bill was pulled from the subcommittee's agenda for today. With only one more day until the crossover deadline, this may be good news for the public.
UPDATE JUNE 6: The House Committee and Job Development Subcommittee on Science and Technology wil take this issue up again on Wednesday. While this bill does not affect the entire state, a number of counties have already been added to the list and could conceivably have more added if it should get past the committee and move on to the Senate. Please contact members of the committee and appear at the statehouse on Wednesday to show united opposition. This subcommittee meets at 10 a.m.
UPDATE JUNE 1: The subcommittee has forwarded the bill to another subcommittee in order to deal with an amendment. View the latest version of the bill and the pending committee amendment by downloading this file. Under this version of the bill, the following counties (and all the communities and boards contained in them) would be added to the list: Bladen, Cabarrus, Currituck, Davidson, Henderson, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Robeson, Rockingham, Scotland, Stanly and Union.
UPDATE MAY 31: This bill has been removed from the House Committee on Government. It is now in the Committee on Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Science and Technology (click here for a list of subcommittee members). This new HB307 version incorporates 307 plus an amended version of H472 that failed in the House Rules Committee a few weeks ago. That version adds a large number of duties to local governments to ensure ads run, that the public sees them, etc – all of which will cost local governments more money and will require hiring of staff in many cases.
NCPA urgently needs help from its members to contact legislators on the subcommittee and stop HB 307.
This bill, as it was filed, applies to Wake County government and the municipal governments of Cary, Clayton, Wendell and Zebulon only. It would remove the requirement that these entities publish their public notices in newspapers. It allows instead that the county and the towns to post its notices “on the county’s Internet site or by any other means.”
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Cary), Rep. Darren G. Jackson (D-Raleigh) and Rep. Tom Murray (R-Morrisville). Co-sponsors are Rep. Rosa U. Gill (D-Raleigh), Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Hendersonville) and Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam (R-Apex).
The bill has be referred to the House Committee on Government. Chairman of that committee is Rep. Larry Brown (R-Kernersville). Vice chairmen of the committee are Rep. Dan. W. Ingle (R-Burlington), Rep. James L. Boles Jr. (R-Southern Pines), Rep. James H. Langdon Jr. (R-Angier) and Rep. Harry Warren (R-Salisbury).
NCPA opposes this bill and any similar legislation, primarily because allowing government units to post on their own websites means not putting notices where people will actually see them. The premise of requiring public notices is to allow as many people as possible a chance to see what their governments are doing. The local newspaper is the most conspicuous place for citizens to find this information.
NCPA believes the best method for killing off this legislation will be at the committee level. Members with representatives on the Committe on Government are asked to contact them and express their opposition and how it makes governments less transparent.
UPDATE: (March 31) This specific bill was defeated in committee by an 11-9 vote.
This is another local bill which affects the coastal county of Currituck. It would allow the county to forgo publication of legal notices in newspapers in favor of the county's own website.
The bill has only one sponsor, Rep. Bill Owens (D-Elizabeth City).
Like any bill of this nature, NCPA strongly opposes. While on the surface this legislation may seem to be about saving money, it comes at the cost of citizens not being made aware of what their government is doing in a method that is accessible to all and in the place they know they could find it, in the newspaper. (See above on HB 307)
Under this bill, the state would create a publicly accessible database by January 2013 containing details on spending, the amounts, who gets the money and its purpose. All of the information is supposed to be located in one place on the Internet at no charge to users.
Primary sponsors are Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Emerald Isle), Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Valdese), Rep John M. Blust (R-Greensboro) and Rep. Marilyn Avila (R-Raleigh). The bill has been assigned to the Committee on finance.
This bill would require cities and towns to post on the Internet all notices of meetings, agendas and minutes. While the bill seems to prefer that a third party provide the website and space (but at no charge to the municipality), it does allow for using the city or town's own website if a qualifying third party doesn't exist.
The second portion of the bill establishes a method for municipalities to make minutes of closed sessions public via the Internet.
The bill was filed by Sen. Don Vaughan (D-Greensboro).
NCPA is in the process of studying this bill.
This bill probits anyone who is in prison or under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections or local jails from accessing otherwise public records concerning public employees.
The bill was filed by Rep. Shirley B. Randleman (R-Wilkesboro). Its co-sponsor is Rep. Bill Faison (D-Durham).
The full House approved the bill on third reading May 18 on a vote of 116-0. It now heads for the Senate.
NCPA opposes this bill. This is just another new secrecy bill, a textbook example of the slew of anti-public access bills filed every session. This bill, too, illustrates why NC needs to put the Sunshine Amendment on the 2012 ballot and have the voters build a firewall around the right to know.
This bill makes clear that any nonprofit organization that receives public money must provide its latest financial statements whenever someone from the public requests the information. Public funding could be in the form of grants or loans and applies to money received from local, state and federal sources.
The primary sponsors of the bill are Rep. Carolyn Justice (R-Hampstead), Rep. Efton Sager (R-Goldsboro), Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Mount Airy) and Rep. Roger West (R-Marble).
The House approved this bill (93-12) on May 19. It has been refered to the Senate Committee on Finance.
NCPA supports this measure.
MAY 9 UPDATE: The audtior bill has been substituted with a bill concerning Greensboro charter amendments. That version is making its way through the House.
FEB. 28 UPDATE: The bill's sponsor has said he will not pursue the legislation after objections had been raise by NCPA and its members.
While on the surface this legislation appears to be simple changes in duties of the state auditor's office, it contains language that significantly worsens the secrecy of state auditor investigations, as well as resulting actions and dispositions.
Specifically, the bill would amend SECTION 3. G.S. 147-64.6B(a) to include the sentence: “Information concerning investigative decisions, actions, and dispositions is considered confidential and may be disclosed only for the purpose of gathering additional information for, or in furtherance of, an investigation pursuant to this section.”
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Larry R. Brown, R-Kernersville.
NCPA urges its members to contact their representatives to voice opposition to this bill.
Many municipalities and government agencies have been collecting email addresses from residents and others wanting to receive alerts and various information. Under this bill, the lists themselves will remain a public record open for inspection. However, there would be an exemption to the public records law in that the governmental units will not be required to provide copies of the lists.
This goes beyond the bills listed below (SB 182, HB 440 and HB 441) in that it applies to all local government units, not just the communities cited in each of the individual local bills.
This bill is sponsored by Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R-Charlotte), Rep. Tricia Ann Cotham (D-Matthews), Rep. Frank Iler (R-Oak Island) and Rep. Joe Tolson (D-Pinetops).
It has been assigned to the Committee on Government.
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