Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.
Rep. Mike Speciale continues to impress us. He has co-sponsored what may very well become one of the most important bills in this year's General Assembly. But it has gotten very little notice and is not something that will garner many votes for its sponsors, but it could make a paradigm shift in the way local government operates in North Carolina.
So what's the big deal? The simple answer is that if HB 870 becomes law it will put a real crimp in the secrecy that permeates many local governing bodies. They go into "closed session" and think that nobody will ever know what they talk about or do while behind closed doors. HB 879 simply provides that those session, with some exceptions, will be recorded and the record kept.
What that means is that after the purpose of the closed session has been accomplished the record becomes a public record available to the public. We may learn late, but we will be able to eventually learn what went on behind those closed doors.
There are two notable exceptions. One is when the board is being advised by their attorney and the other is when
confidential personnel information is being discussed. But typically that is not where the mischief takes place. The law now requires that minutes of closed session must be kept, but the problem with that is that they can, and often are, written in such cryptic language that you can't tell what really happened. This way there will be a recording. The knowledge that the camera/recorders are rolling will do much to prevent some of the worst abuses we now have. It is a good bill.
We commend Rep. Speciale for signing on as a co-sponsor of the bill. That was a good day's work when he did that.
The bill passed the House on a 87 to 29 vote. It now must pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor before it will become law.
The post appears courtesy of Beaufort County NOW