Politics makes strange bedfellows, and in the case of House Bill 64 the Republicans in the state Senate are aligned with the North Carolina Press Association in support of a bill to make more information about government employees a public record.
House Bill 64, which is expected to be voted on soon by the Senate and has the support of powerful Republican senators, would make the reason for a government employee’s promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation and dismissal a public record.
The bill states that for each of those actions “a general description of the reasons” would be public record.
The bill, if it passes the state Senate and House and is signed by Gov. Roy Cooper, would apply to state as well as local government employees, which means it would apply to law enforcement personnel and teachers. The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) has come out in opposition to the bill and most legislators who have publicly stated opposition are Democrats.
The media have long complained about the lack of public information about government employees in the state. For years the law in North Carolina only made public the last action taken regarding an employee, a public record that did not allow the media to look at the history of a public employee’s career, only the most recent snapshot. That strange quirk has been corrected, but revealing the reason for the action taken would at least crack the door open on government employees.
Over 35 states currently have laws that make similar information about government employees public. It’s the public that pays the salaries, so it does seem to make sense that the public has a right to know why employees are being promoted, demoted or disciplined.
Cooper sponsored similar legislation when he was a state senator, but opposition from the NCAE, who are among the governor’s strongest supporters, may put Cooper in an interesting position if the bill passes the legislature.