OUR VIEW: Things that should remain public, private

By: Editorials

While House Bill 774, which was sent to Gov. McCrory for action this week, and HB 792, which is scheduled for a third reading vote in the Senate today, might appear to be somewhat related in that they both deal with what is public and what is private, they are actually opposites.

HB 774 classifies what should be public information and turns it into state secrets.

HB 792 deals with what happens when an image that is extremely private becomes public via a malicious action.

The so-called Restoring Proper Justice Act mostly deals with abolishing the requirement that a licensed physician must be present for the execution of any inmate sentenced to die. North Carolina executions are carried out by lethal injections. Under current law, a doctor has to monitor the injection.

HB 774 changes the wording so that a doctor is only necessary to examine the body and make a declaration of death after the fact. Any medical professional, which includes nurses and EMTs, would be able to monitor the procedure.

But tacked on to the main provisions of this bill, the legislature added another exemption to our state’s public records law. The public would no longer be allowed to know the “name, address, qualifications and other identifying information of any person or entity that manufactures, compounds, prepares, prescribes, dispenses, supplies or administers the drugs or supplies” used for executions.

The end result of this will be that the public will have no right to know whether state prison officials lean on an old-boy network of friends and buddies to sell it what they need for an execution. Now, going by this language, we might be able to find out how much was paid and even what we paid for, but not who we taxpayers paid.

When government can hide who it does business with, the public gets left out in the cold. Knowing where our money goes is our right, but apparently state legislators thought otherwise.

Pressure will surely be on the governor to sign this bill in order to pave the way for resuming executions in the state. Unfortunately the ill-considered measure to deny the public information about public expenditures will probably get caught up in that pressure. Unless the public makes enough noise to the governor about not needing more state secrets.

As for HB 792, you could make a slippery slope argument concerning free-speech rights, but it deals with such a creepy topic that it would be difficult at best.

This bill, which awaits final Senate action before returning to the House for concurrence or rejection, deals with people who send nude or pornographic photos or images depicting other, private people without consent of the person shown. This is not about someone emailing or posting his or her own revealing shots — but those of someone else.

It’s called revenge posting. You want to get back at someone, so you post photos of them naked or otherwise doing something intimate they didn’t want shared with anyone else. Sometimes it even gets used for blackmail.

Under this bill, the person posting could face criminal charges as well as be sued by the aggrieved party.

We must admit not being clear on the purpose or effect of some measures tacked on to the end of the bill dealing with an adult exposing himself or herself while in a private residence not his or her own. We don’t know what problem this is trying to address or whether it happens so much that we need another law on the books.

Regardless, we can agree that there are things that need to remain private. But, government information is generally never one of those things.