Legislative committee on transparency, more exemptions proposed in bills introduced at House filing deadline

Wednesday was the deadline for members of the N.C. House of Representatives to file bills for the 2015 General Assembly. Like the Senate deadline last week, the House deadline attracted a number of bills effecting transparency, including a proposal for a joint legislative commission to study transparency improvements. House members also proposed two new exemptions. 

At last week’s deadline for members of the N.C. Senate to file new bills, a handful were introduced that would signficantly change how public records are handled. On Wednesday the same deadline came for members of the N.C. House of Representatives, and once again a handful of new bills have been introduced that could change public records and open meetings in North Carolina. 

House Bill 499 would create a joint legislative study commission on public records and open meetings in North Carolina. The committee would “study ways to improve transparency of State and local government in North Carolina.” It’s 10 members would be appointed by Speaker of the House Tim Moore and by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. The committee would report back to General Assembly at the start of the 2016 short session. It would report a second time, with legislative suggestions, before the current General Assembly’s term ends next year.

House Bill 508 will give cities and towns a new exemption from the Public Records Law for information collected as part of a local alarm registration program. The bill would make confidential the name, phone number, and personal identiifying information as well as “sensitive security information” about the alarm itself. 

House Bill 543 would make some changes to the N.C. Medical Board, which licenses doctors, nurses and physicians assistants.It would give a review panel that considers applicants able to receive additional confidential information. It would also create a broad exemption for records collected by the review panel about particular candidates. It also requires the review panel to post the names and practice addresses of all new applicants. 

The same bill makes explicit that the review panel is subject to the Open Meetings Law. It then gives the review panel an additional exemption from the open meetings law, that will allow it to meet behind closed doors to discuss applicants. 

Also introduced in the House were companion bills to several introduced in the Senate last week. Those include a law enforcement privacy protection provision (HB 477), a Medicaid modernization provision (HB 425), and  a community association manager’s license program (HB 514),