The North Carolina General Assembly remains poised to make open government history this week when lawmakers return to Raleigh for the last time in 2021. It has been a while since our legislature has made any meaningful improvement to North Carolinians’ right to know about government action and performance through access to state and local government records and meetings. Now’s their chance.

It was almost 25 years ago that Gov. Roy Cooper, then a state senator, made the first pass at bringing North Carolina law on public access to government employee disciplinary records into line with the best open government states. That bill, entitled the Discipline Disclosure Act of 1997, would have cracked the door to the vault of secrecy that has long locked away hiring, firing and performance records for North Carolina state and local government employees, records tracking disciplinary actions on everyone paid and employed by state and local government from public school teachers and university administrators to county managers and local law enforcement officers. Thanks to opposition from public employee groups that persists to this day, the bill never passed.

Fast forward to 2010, then-Sen. Phil Berger crafted bipartisan language – in the waning hours of the short session that year – that would again have put a small spotlight on the same records of government employee misconduct. And again, government employee groups blocked passage of the bill.

A year later, then-freshmen Republican Sens. Bill Rabon and Kathy Harrington filed a bill that contained the same language and were joined by a half dozen other sponsors to advance the cause. And once again, government employee opposition killed the effort to the bill.

Ten years would pass – as countless stories of government employee firings and disciplinary actions were announced without explanation before Sens. Rabon, Krawiec and Sanderson would attempt to run the bill again. Which brings us to the current moment, with the General Assembly poised to consider and potentially vote on the Government Transparency Act of 2021.

Yet in a year when the public is thinking that “transparency” should be a core value for lawmakers at all levels, there is no assurance the bill will pass. This time, while Republicans have broadly supported the bill, Democrats — with the exception of three senators and four House members – have declined to publicly announce their willingness to vote for the bill. That’s a shame because failure to pass this legislation would leave North Carolina in the bottom tier of the country when it comes to access to the most meaningful government records. Only a handful of other states in the nation continue to have such weak laws in this area. We cannot continue to be in the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the public’s right to know.

It’s time for the General Assembly and Gov. Cooper to do what should have been done long ago – advance the public’s right to know by passing the Government Transparency Act.

Sandy Hurley, APG East TN/NC Mount Airy Media Group regional publisher, is president of the N.C. Press Association. Bill Moss, editor and publisher of the Hendersonville Lightning, is chair of the NCPA’s Legislative Committee.

(7) comments

mpjeep

The public’s right to know in the Government Transparency Act probably won’t happen, and even if it does, I’m not sure of its true transparency.

Look what NC does with Accounting transparency.

Truth in Accounting (TIA) released its Financial Transparency Score for 2021, and North Carolina ranked next to last due to misleading and confusing items

noitall

Generally Accepted Rules for Accounting is the gold standard and these politicians should be held responsible for their actions. Accountability ALWAYS improves any action. Time for NC politicians to come down out of the trees.

mpjeep

Yep, GAAP is great. Just ask the good folks that worked for Enron.

Great independent auditors help, but these types of folks get blackballed sooner or later.

We will never have Transparency and Accountability in government, just like there will never be World Peace. We can hope for the best to “increase” transparency and accountability.

drewski

https://www.truthinaccounting.org/library/doclib/FSOS-Booklet-2021.pdf

nc ranked 14th not 49th overall, its rating remained the same from 2020.

Actual facts matter.

mpjeep

Georgia and North Carolina are tied with the second-worst transparency score of 54.

http://www.truthinaccounting.org/

mpjeep

(The Center Square formerly watchdog.org) – Georgia tied North Carolina as the second-least fiscal transparent state in the country, according to a national watchdog report, Truth in Accounting (TIA) released its Financial Transparency Score 2021.

noitall

A recent criminal case was overturned on appeal claiming the jury was tainted by a large picture of Jefferson Davis on the wall. The jury was all white - the perp was a minority of some kind. SF Chronicle source. . Boggles the mind.

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