NC legislators, governor call for repeal of restrictions on death investigation records

NC legislators, governor call for repeal of restrictions on death investigation records
North Carolina legislators introduced a bill Monday to repeal a provision they passed last month that would shield some death investigation records from the public. (Source: Casey Toth | News & Observer)

RALEIGH, N.C. (News & Observer/WBTV) - North Carolina legislators introduced a bill Monday to repeal a provision they passed last month that would shield some death investigation records from the public.

The provision, included in Senate Bill 168, has gained national attention since the legislature passed it nearly unanimously in a late-night vote before leaving Raleigh.

The state Department of Health and Human Services requested the language in the bill to make mostly technical revisions to department-related laws, including adding a provision that mandates certain records remain confidential when used as part of a death investigation.

If signed into law, the provision would close a loophole that makes law enforcement records public if they are in the possession of the medical examiner. Senate Bill 232, however, would repeal the provision upon becoming law.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has not yet signed or vetoed SB 168, but in a letter to Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon, a Republican from Brunswick County, Cooper asked that the provision be repealed.

“I believe it is in everyone’s best interest to pass the other important provisions and repeal Section 2.5,” Cooper said in the letter, referring to the records provision.

Rabon had sent a letter to Cooper Wednesday saying Senate Republicans would change the language only if requested by Cooper’s administration.

SB 232, which also includes a provision that would allow individuals to wear a mask for public health reasons beyond August 1, will now go to the House floor. Under current state law, after August 1, wearing a mask in public is illegal.

This story was jointly reported and edited by Lucille Sherman and Jordan Schrader, of The News & Observer and Nick Ochsner, of WBTV.