Editorial: Republican Public Records Bill That Waste Legislative Time

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 29 April 2015 04:00

Managing Editor

While reviewing bills currently making their way through the North Carolina General Assembly, one piece of proposed legislation - Senate Bill 553 submitted by Republican Senator Warren Daniel of Burke, Cleveland counties - stood out from the others in the list. Granted, many bills make you wonder what the legislators sponsoring those bills were drinking at the time, but this one took the cake. This bill is titled, "Public Records/Access for NC Citizens Only."
Here's the opening of the existing public records law for our fine state: "The public records and public information compiled by the agencies of North Carolina government or its subdivisions are the property of the people. citizens of this State. Therefore, it is the policy of this State that the people citizens of this State may obtain copies of their public records and public information free or at minimal cost unless otherwise specifically provided by law. As used herein, "minimal cost" shall mean the actual cost of reproducing the public record or public information."
Notice that where ever the word "people" is used, this proposed legislation strikes out that word and replaces it with "citizens of this State".
It does make an allowance for your local register of deeds and clerk of courts. It adds a section stating, "the public records maintained by the clerk of court and register of deeds of every county shall be open to inspection and copying by any person. The access granted under this subsection is subject to the requirements and conditions of this Chapter."
Why make such a change?  Assuming this bill lives much longer than a house fly at a frog farm, it would never achieve the intended purpose. State agencies aren't going to hire people, do paper work and spend money to verify state citizenship.
 And even if it was enforced, I'm pretty sure in the future someone would open a new niche business making requests on behalf of non-NC citizens.
This is a gross waste of the legislature's time that could be devoted to more important issues. Even better, when someone from South Carolina wants access to, or copies of, public records from Town Hall in Carolina Beach where they pay property taxes on their beach home, I'd love for Senator Daniel to come on down and deny them access. But hey, three republicans support his bill. Surprised?


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