DRNC’s Statement on HB 361

Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC) is the focus of new legislation filed in the NC General Assembly (NCGA). House Bill 361 seeks to compel DRNC to report to state legislators every quarter. DRNC eagerly welcomes sharing information about our work and regularly accepts invitations to do so, but HB 361 runs counter to our federal mandate to be independent of the state.  

DRNC is a private, independent non-profit law firm that serves as North Carolina’s Protection and Advocacy organization (“the P&A”). We are part of a national network of federally-funded, federally-mandated P&As that work to protect the rights and safety of disabled children, youth, and adults. DRNC receives no state appropriations.  

Beyond going against our federal mandate, HB 361 would detract from DRNC’s work on behalf of people with disabilities. Mandated reporting to the state would require precious resources that would be siphoned away from the important work we do every day. DRNC regularly reports to our funders about the actions we have taken and plan to take to advocate for people with disabilities. We also provide extensive and ongoing information to the public, for example, on our website (disabilityrightsnc.org). DRNC is transparent about our work. 

DRNC learned of HB 361 only after its introduction. We have not been invited to provide any information to any legislative body or speak to a legislative committee. We agree with the implication that our work is important. Thanks to our combination of federal and private funds, we cover a broad range of issues, including education, criminal legal system, voting, employment, health and mental health care, disaster recovery, housing, community accessibility, abuse and neglect investigations, and more.  

Routinely we are in contact with members of the NCGA and other public officials about our work that will affect legislative business and budgeting (such as our litigation on Samantha R and Timothy B). DRNC also regularly educates and collaborates with legislators about legislation that might directly or indirectly impact disabled people.  

Never having been asked to present to any committee of the NCGA, there is no need to statutorily compel such reporting. We are also concerned about the precedent of our state legislature seeking to compel a non-state entity (either for-profit or not-for-profit) that does not receive state funding to submit to mandatory reporting. Our function as a law firm with confidentiality requirements further complicates this matter. 

House Bill 361 is unnecessary, wasteful and creates a scary precedent in the state of North Carolina. Its passing will only further set back the work to protect North Carolina’s disability community. 

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