A few, brave state lawmakers consistently support a cause that doesn't typically make headlines -- protecting the public's right to know in the NC General Assembly. These lawmakers deserve at least to be called loyal to their public and press constituents on this issue and, arguably, deserve induction into a future "Right to Know" hall of fame. So with every seat the NC House and Senate in play in the November 6 election, I offer the following observations on those who have made it a hallmark of their public service to support legislation that would strengthen the right to know and oppose legislation that would weaken it.
Here they are:
NC House of Representatives -
Republicans Marilyn Avila (Wake Co candidate running to return to her seat), John Bradford (Charlotte), Ted Davis (Wilmington), Josh Dobson (Nebo), Jimmy Dixon (Mt. Olive), Cody Henson (Hendersonville/Brevard), Jonathan Jordan (W. Jefferson), David Lewis (Dunn), Chris Malone (Raleigh), Steve Ross (Burlington), John Sauls (Sanford), Mitchell Setzer (Catawba), and Rena Turner (Mooresville/Statesville).
Democrats Susan Fisher (Asheville), Verla Insko (Chapel Hill), Graige Meyer (Chapel Hill), Marcia Morey (Durham), and Garland Pierce (Laurinburg).
NC Senate -
Republicans Rick Horner (Wilson), Joyce Krawiec (Winston-Salem), Brent Jackson (Autryville), Louis Pate (Goldsboro), Norm Sanderson (New Bern), and Bill Rabon (Southport).
Democrats Dan Blue (Raleigh), Floyd McKissick (Durham), Terry Van Duyn (Asheville), and Mike Woodard (Durham).
Of these, all are incumbents except Avila. She is running to return to the northern Wake County seat currently held by Democrat and former Judge Joe John, to whom Avila lost by 500 votes in 2016. Avila's reputation as an open government advocate is second to none and was earned in her now famous 2013 floor debates with then Speaker Tillis. Avila led the House to pass the "Florida Compromise" bill, preserving the public's right to receive public notices via all media, by strong votes.
In the last six years, these House members and Senators have shown uncommon leadership in 1) opposing statewide legislation that would reduce the flow of information on government action to the public, 2) supporting a bill that, for the first time, requires the state Budget Office to post all the state payables and payments online. Senator Sanderson even filed a bill to criminalize violations of NC's Public Records Law. (All of the named lawmakers previously voted to pass legislation strengthening the public records law by allowing automatic recovery of legal expenses by anyone forced to sue state or local government for access to public records.) And Rep. Ross, with the help of other House leaders, stopped a bill to impose a tax on constitutionally-protected newspaper distribution.
The legislative feats of these lawmakers and candidate Avila are all the more remarkable in the current political climate. Many faced pressure from leadership in their own party and still voted to support the right to know. They deserve your support.
[John Bussian is Raleigh-based media lawyer, who serves as First Amendment and Legislative Counsel to the NC Press Association]