Bryce Weblog

Sunshine laws benefit North Carolina

by Bryce Little

Sunshine laws have been around since the mid 1970’s. These laws have  opened the door for journalist to attend public meetings and have access to many of the records kept by politicians and government workers. This act has allowed for freedom of press to reach its full potential in the United States.

The media is one of the only real links between the government and its people. Think about it. The majority of Americans get their government information through news outlets like CNN, ABC or CBS. The Sunshine Laws permit these types of news outlets to obtain critical information about governments, good or bad. This in turn gives the public full access through the media to Government records.

While the public is able to obtain these documents and sit in on government meetings, they usually don’t and why should they? This law was made almost solely for the media. The media are the ones who break stories, who uncover scandals, and do in depth coverage of governmental findings.

The North Carolina Sunshine Law was amended in 1995 to state:

“The public records and public information compiled by the agencies of North Carolina government or its subdivisions are the property of the people. Therefore, it is the policy of this state that the people may obtain copies of their public records and public information free or at minimal cost unless otherwise specifically provided by law. As used herein, ‘minimal cost’ shall mean the actual cost of reproducing the public record or public information.”

In North Carolina, the law is being used to generate revenue as well as keep the public and news outlets happy. The sunshine law is something that is used whenever a news organization needs any type of record or wants to cover any type of government gathering.

This concept of a completely open and free government was a critical issue in this year’s gubernatorial election. The State has been plagued with lawmakers who have committed crimes where it has been critical for the state to have strict Sunshine Laws.

“As governor, unlike Mike Easley, I’m going to be accessible,” said Bev Perdue, the recently elected North Carolina Governor in an interview with the News and Observer. “I’m going to be on site. I’m going to be out there with people, because that’s my personality.

Perdue mentions Mike Easley who was accused last spring of instructing Debbie Crane, the former spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, to delete any e-mail’s sent to her by the governors office. The News and Observer then sued Easley saying that the deletion of e-mails was against the states public record laws.

In North Carolina and around the nation being able to open public records to the media and public has led to controversy and crass political debates. It is the medias job to dispel crooks, and uncover information using these governmental documents. Without these laws the government would be kept in secrecy and would not be serving the people in the most genuine way possible.


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