ICYMI, the lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer is a good one. It explains — much as NC Policy Watch Courts and Law reporter Sharon McCloskey did in this story yesterday — why the claims of legislative leaders of that “legislative immunity” somehow insulates them from disclosing the real reasons behind the voter suppression bill passed last session are completely bogus. After exploring the recent hubbub surrounding the bizarre comments of Senator Bill Rabon in the puppy mill controversy, the editorial puts it this way:
“The legislators say they are protected by ‘legislative immunity,’ which they claim not only shields them from ‘arrest or civil process for what they do in legislative proceedings,’ but also having to reveal the conversations they had during the crafting of that legislation.
Are they right? The concept of legislative immunity sprung from English legislators trying to protect themselves from the bullying of English monarchs centuries ago. In the U.S., more than 40 states, including North Carolina, offer lawmakers protection from punitive executive or judicial action regarding the discharge of their legislative duties. Of course, if lawmakers engage in illegal activities, such as taking bribes, then they are not shielded from punishment. But legislative immunity does protect lawmakers from liability for what they say during floor debate and committee deliberations.
This is where things begin to get legally fuzzy. Is it ‘punitive’ to have to make public those deliberations and other communications? Are emails outside of floor debate and committee meetings also protected? States are struggling to resolve these issues, and in North Carolina, it might take a court to decide what lawmakers must reveal.
It shouldn’t. As Sen. Rabon showed, the legislative process can be an ugly mix of power and ego. But the public deserves to know more, not less, about how legislators do the business we elected them to do.”
Amen to that. Read the entire editorial by clicking here.