Brock filings would cut state funding for abortions, trim governor's salary, make permits for concealed handguns private

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Scott Jenkins
N.C. Sen. Andrew Brock introduced bills in the General Assembly this week that would prohibit the state’s health plan from paying for abortions, exclude concealed handgun permits from being public records and take a hefty chunk from the governor’s salary.
Those were three of the 10 bills filed Thursday for which Brock was either the sole sponsor or one of the primary sponsors. Others include legislation to require annual physical examinations under the state health plan and to study the state law governing how hospitals and other health-care facilities expand.
The deadline passed this week for filing public bills in the Senate. The deadline for filing local bills was March 11. In the House of Representatives, local bills must be filed by April 1 and public bills by April 8.
In the State House, Rep. Lorene Coates and Rep. Fred Steen were primary sponsors of a bill calling on the General Assembly to honor the memories of Victor Isler and Justin Monroe, the two Salisbury firefighters who died fighting a fire at Salisbury Millwork on March 7, 2008.
Also this week, Coates was one of four primary sponsors of legislation to create a commission that would study the gasoline shortage that happened in the wake of hurricanes Ike and Gustav last year, the obstacles that hindered the recovery of gasoline supply and how to prevent it from happening again.
Brock has introduced legislation multiple times during his tenure in the Senate to bar the state employees’ health plan from paying for elective abortions. He says it’s a matter of not wanting taxpayer dollars to fund a controversial and medically unnecessary procedure.
“I can’t think of anything that I’m more adamantly against than that procedure, but I have to pay for it through my health plan,” Brock said Friday. “When they’re saying there’s not taxpayer-funded abortions, they’re not telling you the whole truth, because it’s paid for in the state health plan.”
Brock says excluding concealed handgun permits and lists of people who hold those permits from the public record has been done elsewhere and is a matter of keeping them safe from criminals who might be looking for guns to steal.
“The danger in that is you’re giving someone a list of who may or may not have guns in their house,” he said. “Basically, it’s like having a list of everybody who’s got a widescreen TV you can go steal.”
He said law enforcement agencies will still have lists of gun owners and argues only those departments really need them. “I don’t think it was ever the intent to have that list disclosed,” he said.
Brock said he is interested, however, in letting the public know that, while the General Assembly hasn’t gotten a pay raise in more than a decade, the governor and others in leadership have seen their salaries increase steadily. He’s introduced a bill that would turn back the clock on those wages to 1994.
Under the legislation, the governor’s current annual pay of $139,590 would be slashed to $97,600. Members of the Council of State would be paid $87,000 annually. The Senate president pro tem, House speaker and other legislative leaders would also take pay cuts.
“I think if the General Assembly can survive at ’94 levels, the governor and Council of State should be able to as well,” he said.
Another bill came about after Brock, who lives in Davie County and also represents Rowan, watched what he calls a “circus” develop as Novant Health and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center dueled over building a new hospital to serve Davie. The fight ended up in court.
His legislation would direct a research commission to study the state’s certificate of need process, under which health-care organizations must submit requests to the state for expensive or large-scale additions or improvements.
He hopes the state can focus more on areas of population growth and where facilities are really needed and less on competition between health-care providers over expanding their own services in a particular area.
“The study is not to close it down,” Brock said of the current process. “That wasn’t my intent at all. It’s how can we make it better and probably have a few more regulations?”
Other bills Brock filed this week would require state employees and dependents covered under the state health plan to have yearly physicals; bar University of North Carolina officials from giving away performing-arts tickets as part of their lobbying efforts, prohibit public employers from making payroll deductions for political purposes; direct the State Board of Education to study the effects of head injuries in high school sports; make assaulting a law enforcement officer, firefighter or emergency medical worker a felony rather than a misdemeanor.