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February 26, 2024 10:19 am

Opinion

Opinion | “Big Brother” Bill that Would Establish Dangerous Precedent is Back

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by Rob Schofield, NC Newsline

Perhaps it was wishful thinking. More than two months ago in this space, I explained why a seemingly innocuous state House bill is actually a hugely dangerous example of big government treading in an area in which it has no rightful place. And then, blessedly, after winning approval in the House, the bill disappeared from sight.

Scuttlebutt from Jones Street indicated that perhaps lawmakers had come to their senses and recognized that their proposal to require the private nonprofit law firm known as Disability Rights North Carolina to provide four reports per year to state government on its activities was way too much Big Brother — even for a legislative majority that has no problem micromanaging the most intimate healthcare decisions of private individuals.

As the April essay noted:

“…the organization is a wholly private 501(c)(3) nonprofit and has been for more than 15 years. It receives no state appropriations.

As such, the state of North Carolina has no more business demanding that it report the details of its work to the legislature than it would in issuing such a directive to any other nonprofit that receives zero state funds – be it a church, a civil rights organization, a local chamber of commerce, a garden club, or any other private corporation.”

Unfortunately — as is so sadly typical in the 2023 General Assembly — it appears the hopes that lawmakers had seen the error of their ways (and that they might actually sit down and work something out with the group in question rather than trying to wield a heavy-handed hammer) were overly optimistic and off-base.

As it turns out, this deeply flawed bill will be heard in the Senate Health Care Committee this morning at 10:00 and appears to be back on the fast track.

And all a body can say is: what a waste!

As Disability Right NC’s Director of Public Policy Corye Dunn told me last night:

“If this were really about people wanting to know what we are working on, the voluntary report we have already submitted would have been sufficient. Or our offer to voluntarily present to oversight committees between legislative sessions. Or a directive to DHHS to disclose to NCGA its dealings with us. That’s not what we are seeing here. DHHS and a few service providers don’t like our work, so they are seeking to constrain it any way they can.”

In other words, instead of taking simple and common sense steps that would allow the legislature and state agencies to obtain all the information they could ever want or need (and, in the process, maybe even improve the state’s treatment of people with disabilities), lawmakers will instead issue an engraved invitation to expensive and unnecessary litigation by advancing a bill that will rightfully be seen by scores of private organizations as a wrongful government inquisition with the potential to set a frightening precedent.

This article was originally published in NC Newsline and is republished here under a Creative Commons license