Raleigh, N.C. — Republican budget-writers in both the House and Senate are proposing the elimination of the state's Child Fatality Task Force.
In existence since 1991, the 35-member task force, which operates under the Department of Health and Human Services, is an appointed panel of experts that range from pediatricians to researchers to child advocates to law enforcement. Ten lawmakers are also appointed to serve on the panel.
The task force regularly to study and make recommendations aimed at lowering North Carolina's infant mortality and children's intentional and unintentional death rates. It has been the driving force behind changes such as requiring child car seats and bicycle helmets.
"Since 1991, the child death rate has dropped by 46 percent," said Dr. Peter Morris, co-chairman of Child Fatality Task Force. "It would be a true loss to the state if the public policy initiatives we've suggested were no longer made in a systematic way."
Head HHS budget-writer Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, said the Child Fatality Task Force was "a temporary task force at one time" that had been extended by lawmakers.
"It makes recommendations on spending money and makes recommendations on how to create more regulation and have more of the nanny-type state here," Burr said. "I have concerns with that. Other members have concerns with that."
Task force members are all unpaid volunteers, but the panel still costs the state about $86,000 a year to operate.
Burr said the real savings to the state, however, would be eliminating the cost of the legislation the task force supports, which he estimates costs North Carolina millions of dollars a year.
Local task forces can continue to investigate child deaths at the local level, he said.
"It's simply removing a layer of that process here in Raleigh," he said. "We'll continue to focus on those issues."
Not all lawmakers agree with Burr, however.
"I don't think it will end up being cut. It serves a very useful function," said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake. "This task force helps us get accurate medical information on things that will actually impact children's lives."