Editorial: Politicians Pulling a Fast One on Public Records
Legislators should not be allowed to get away with quietly slipping changes in the state law into the annual budget, where they don’t belong and might not even be noticed. However, this is exactly what is happening within the ranks of NC legislature.
From The Pilot:
Recently in Raleigh, it developed that an unidentified member of the N.C. Senate had misused the budget process by inappropriately inserting three changes to the state’s public records law. The worst of these would allow law enforcement agencies to put a secrecy stamp on “any specific security information or detailed plans, patterns or practices to prevent or respond to criminal gang or organized illegal activity.”
In English, what this little provision would seem to mean is that almost every police department could refuse to release to the public just about any kind of arrest report. This flies in the face of the state’s model Public Records Law.
Newspapers and other media organizations are known for fighting aggressively to keep the public’s business out in the public. But it is important to emphasize that it is not just journalists who benefit from such mandated openness. It is every person in the state who wants to know what kind of a job elected representatives and public employees are doing.
Members of the General Assembly who want to modify state law are free to propose such changes and debate them openly on the floor. But they should not be allowed to quietly slip them into a budget through a side door.