Folwell rebukes budget provision exempting NCGA from Open Records Act

I hate it when the NCGOPe forces me into a position where I’m on the same side with Roy Cooper and his mob.  But that’s what happens when a party is overrun with people who consistently put their lust for cash over and above THE RIGHT THING TO DO. 

The recently passed state budget – negotiated in months-long secret meetings involving a handful of elected officials – contained all kinds of policy changes.  *Silly me.  I always thought a budget had to do with spending and numbers.  Line item amounts.  That kind of thing. *

It’s an old, well-honed trick.  *Vote against all the political crap tucked in the budget, and you’ll vote against the funds you wanted for beautiful downtown Lizard Lick in the heart of your district.*

It keeps ‘honorables’ from having to attach their names to potentially embarrassing votes.  *You know, the kind that totally go against what you promised your constituents in the last election.*

One of the sleazier provisions in the budget allows the honorables to pick and choose what among their records counts as PUBLIC.  In all honesty, anything that involves the decision-making process on spending OUR MONEY needs to be publicly available.  *Granted, that could prove to be embarrassing to ‘honorables’ seeking to hide their side-pieces in no-show jobs somewhere in the state bureaucracy.*

Interestingly, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson — aka “President of the Senate” aka “conservative warrior” aka “gubernatorial frontrunner” — has had nothing to say publicly on this whole affair.  I can see why.  After all, as “president of the senate”, he stands to benefit from this travesty.  

Open government and open records are an important component of good government.  Open Records laws have helped us uncover and learn more about Robinson’s sketchy family business.  Neither the bureaucrats nor the honorables have any intention of telling you about it.  Neither does the posterior-smooching, dwindling membership of the Capitol Press Corps.  Sites like ours and general interested members of the public need the Open Records Laws to stay informed about the wool being pulled over our eyes. 

Open records laws helped uncover efforts to protect and preserve and promote child mutilation prep work and grooming at state universities. We got laws passed to end that nonsense, thanks to publicly-revealed emails and other documents.  The all-about-the-benjamins veto-proof majority on Jones Street had no interest in wading into that territory on their own.  And they wouldn’t have.

State treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Dale Folwell has opened up on this particular Jones Street travesty:

State Treasurer Dale Folwell rebuked lawmakers in his own party Tuesday, saying a new law that shields legislators’ records from the public “reduces confidence in all levels of government.”

“In so many ways, our society is at a crossroads, trying to decide whether to unite or divide,” said Folwell, a Republican who is running for governor. “Answering the why’s and how’s legislation is written is becoming even more important than ever.”

The new state budget — which was unveiled and passed within 48 hours last monthhas a provision that exempts General Assembly members from the state’s open records act, saying lawmakers get to decide which records in their offices are public and which can be destroyed, or sold. During a monthly conference call with reporters, Folwell, a former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, said the change “prevents the public from learning who and what influence certain decision making on their behalf.”

[…] But in passing the new language, lawmakers have exempted themselves from any requirement to release any documents. They also deleted from state law language that specifically said documents produced during redistricting — the process of drawing new election maps — became public records once those maps became law.

The General Assembly is redistricting now, with members of the Republican majority meeting behind closed doors to draw maps for the state House and Senate, as well as North Carolina’s congressional districts. Documents related to that process may be accessible to attorneys involved in the almost-guaranteed lawsuit that will follow that map-making process, but the law no longer requires their release to the public.

Republican lawmakers said Tuesday that they weren’t aware of Folwell’s criticism of their public records laws changes, so they didn’t have an immediate response. Asked whether legislative leaders would consider changing the law, Moore said “we’ll talk about it,” but indicated he didn’t see a reason to. “I’d say let’s just see how it goes and see if there’s any issues,” he said.

[…] Folwell, who won an award from the N.C. Open Government Coalition last year for providing access to public records, acknowledged Tuesday that there’s not much he can do to convince lawmakers to revisit the law. He pledged that his office will continue to embrace transparency.[…]

I’ve heard from a surprising number of people who tell me — with a straight face — that they view an (R) after someone’s name as a mark of integrity.  A whole bunch of people with (R)s after their names gave you this garbage and tried to shove casinos down your throats.

Neither the (R) nor the (D) are signs of sainthood.  Neither are guarantees of good, honest government.  But strong Open Meetings and Open Records laws are a great way to take us down that path. 

This travesty needs to be rethought and reversed.