Local News

Easley Conflicted On Eye Exam Legislation

Posted January 31, 2006

— There's no doubt that everyone recognizes the importance of eye exams for children at an early age.

But making eye exams mandatory and blocking children from school because they haven't had their eyes checked is setting off a groundswell of debate. Now, Gov. Mike Easley is weighing in -- or is he?

"Whether you can make it mandatory is questionable -- and how we pay for it," Easley said.

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    "The fact that this bill requires that all children have a comprehensive eye exam is an increased cost and an unnecessary inconvenience for children and family," said pediatrician Dr. Peter Morris.

    House Speaker Jim Black introduced the idea. Critics note his profession as an optometrist stands to benefit from the extra business. Black has said that Easley encouraged him, but the governor said he didn't initiate the idea.

    "It's something he feels very passionately about," said Easley. "It's based on his experience of catching young children early on."

    State lawmakers return to Raleigh in May, and no doubt the speaker's eye screening provision in the state budget will take center stage.

    Black says he is willing to compromise, but parents who oppose the measure, as well as members of the medical profession say they are going to work to make sure that the legislation is defeated.

    "(It's) an overenthusiastic screening program that children simply don't need," Morris said.

    Even Easley doubts the plan will work. He says he is looking for lawmakers to come up with something better.

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