October 3, 2023
RALEIGH – A coalition of news and public organizations has sent a public letter to members of the North Carolina General Assembly expressing their deep concern over recent changes to the state’s public records laws. The coalition is urging lawmakers to reconsider and rescind Section 27.9 of the 2023 Appropriations Act (HB 259), which grants broad discretion to custodians within the General Assembly to determine what qualifies as a “public record” and allows for the destruction of documents they deem not public records.
The letter emphasizes the vital role that public records play in a functioning democracy. Public records provide valuable insights into the legislative process, government decision-making, and the actions of elected officials, allowing citizens to hold their representatives accountable and make informed decisions about their governance.
The newly introduced amendment, however, grants custodians the power to decide what constitutes a public record, potentially exempting state lawmakers from public records law. This move has raised concerns among the coalition members, as it could undermine the principles of transparency that North Carolina’s public records laws were designed to uphold.
The coalition firmly believes that by promoting greater transparency, the General Assembly can demonstrate its commitment to serving the public interest and upholding democratic principles.
The coalition consists of:
- Donna King, Editor-in-Chief, Carolina Journal
- Donald Bryson, Chief Executive Officer, John Locke Foundation
- Phil Lucey, Executive Director, North Carolina Press Association
- Lockwood Phillips, Publisher, Carteret County News-Times
- Lisa Reynolds, Executive Director, NC Association of Broadcasters
- Marsha Landess, Regional Vice President, Radio One Charlotte (WBT, WFNZ, WLNK, WOSF, WPZS, WOSF HD2)