Open Government access in North Carolina went through several historic steps this legislative session, and despite the work of anti-transparency lobbying groups representing teachers and state employees, among others, our work continues. Below you will see some highlights on how this bill started to where we are now. We will keep the momentum going with your help - the fight for the public’s right to know never stops.
THANK YOU to all who have made calls, written editorials and called out the various state employee lobbying groups on their campaigns of misinformation. This marks a big step for the most important piece of open government legislation in more than a decade. Onward!
February 1997: Then state Senator Roy Cooper files and serves as the sole primary sponsor of SB 799, “The Discipline Disclosure Act”, which would have made public essentially the same state and local government personnel records as today’s NCPA-backed Government Transparency Act.
October 2010: Then NC Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger and NC Senate Democrat and Judiciary Committee Chair Dan Clodfelter draft the core language of today’s Govt Transparency Act and advance the legislation through the state Senate to the House floor. There, through an amendment proposed by the NC state employees’ association, the legislation was gutted and was passed by the Democrat majority in the House through restricting access only to records relating to “promotions” of state and local government personnel.
January 2011: Then freshman state senators Bill Rabon (current NC Senate Rules Committee Chairman) and Kathy Harrington (current state Senate Majority Leader) sponsor and file SB 344, the forerunner to today’s Government Transparency Act. The bill was opposed by the state employees’ association and died in committee.
NCPA Legislative Committee endorses effort to support a government transparency bill opening up personnel records.
8/14/20, NCPA Legislative Committee and Board authorizes support for personnel records access legislation
NCPA conducts 6 regional “roundtables” to gauge support for legislation in concept (securing support from Sen Brent Jackson & others); NC Assn of Broadcasters agrees to sign joint letter of support with NCPA (link); mtg arranged by Bill Moss with NC Police Chiefs Director Bill Hollingsed (Hendersonville)
NCPA commissions Coda Ventures poll showing 70 percent support for the public’s right to know, favoring a change in the public record’s law to see records of law enforcement and other government officials.
Senate sponsors for transparency bill sign on to bill.
NCPA deputizes Lexi Arthur to lobby on behalf of the NCPA.
Meetings with prospective primary bill sponsors Rabon (at Southport, arranged by Les High), Sanderson (arranged by Lockwood Phillips), & Krawiec (arranged by Sandy Hurley & Lexi Arthur), securing agreement for their serving as primary sponsors & plan for formally submitting legislation to NC General Assembly Drafting Office.
1/27/21: 2021-22 session convenes.
2/8/21: Phil and John arrange and Bill Horner hosts UNC-TV video interview of Senate leader Phil Berger and House Minority Leader Robert Reives.
3/25/21 - SB 355 is filed by Sen Sanderson. Government Transparency Act of 2021.
3/31/21:Sent from Senate Rules to Judiciary
NCPA secured support from NC Sheriffs Assn and Conference of District Attorney
4/27/21: Passed Senate Judiciary and sent to Rules (PCS)
4/27/211 - Senate Judiciary Committee conducts first hearing on bill, allowing testimony by NCPA and opposition groups (attach letter submitted at hearing by SEANC, NCAE, & Teamsters); NCPA’s Paul Mauney testifies; Judiciary Committee gives S355 its first favorable report on voice vote.
4/28/21: Sent out of Rules back to Judiciary
May 5, 2021 - Senate Judiciary holds second hearing on bill with preliminary, minor changes to language. Bill draws fire from SEANC, NCAE, North Carolina Center for Justice, Teamsters Union - submits its own letter in opposition (link). Committee gives the bill a second favorable report.
5/5/21: Passed Senate Judiciary and referred to Rules (new PCS)
5/6/21: Passed Senate Rules and placed on Senate session calendar for May 10th
5/10/21: NCPA responds to SEANC, NCAE, North Carolina Center for Justice, Teamsters Union (link)
5/10/21: Vote rescheduled for May 11
5/11/21: Withdrawn from calendar and re-referred back to Senate Judiciary
5/13/21: Crossover Deadline
5/20/21: NCPA President Paul Mauney and Legislative Committee chair Bill Moss write column supporting S355 and calling out AWOL Democrats. link
5/21/21: NCPA member Publisher Jonathan Key secures support from NC Police Chiefs Director Hollingsed
6/3/21: HB 64 is identified with House sponsor’s permission to be used as a vehicle for SB 355 language; bill is referred from Senate Rules into Senate Judiciary.
6/8/21: HB 64 is heard for discussion only in Senate Judiciary (with SB 355 language)
June 9, 2021 - Senate Judiciary hearing on new HB 64, Committee converts SB 355 into HB 64 and announces bill will be voted on at next hearing; NCPA’s Phil Lucey testifies for bill. NCPA comments on proposed amendments by opponents that would gut the bill.
6/9/21: The language in SB 355 becomes HB 64 (PCS), and HB 64 passes Senate Judiciary and is sent to Rules
6/10/21 - Senate Judiciary Committee votes to give bill favorable report in face of more opposition testimony by SEANC.
6/10/21: HB 64 passes Senate Rules and is sent to the Senate floor for a vote
6/14/21: Phil produces and NCPA distributes flier showing poll support of NCPA bill.
6/14/21: Senate votes 28-18 for H64, the Government Transparency Act. Three Democrats join all but one Republican, gaining a veto-proof majority.
6/15/21: HB 64 sent to the House for consideration
6/15/21: John, Lexi, Chris Segal meet with House Leadership.
6/16/21 - NC House votes to send HB 64 to conference committee comprised of Senate and House members to be named.
6/17/21: Legislative Committee meets to discuss strategy going forward.