House Appropriations today approved H947, the Eugenics Compensation bill. But its future is looking more hazy by the day.
The bill was slipped onto the Appropriations agenda at the end of hours of debate over the budget bill.
With both Speaker Thom Tillis and House Majority Leader Skip Stam backing the bill as primary sponsors, you might expect their caucus to follow their lead. But several Republicans voiced skepticism about it.
Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, questioned why the amount of the award was set at $50,000. Rep. Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth, expressed concern that lawyers or others "representing" the victims could get half the money.
Rep. Ric Killian, R-Mecklenburg, argued the measure could open the state to lawsuits from family members of victims made ineligible for compensation because they died before 2010. And Rep. G.L. Pridgen, R-Robeson, was worried that thousands of victims could come forward, costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars in future years. He suggested the state send the bill to a study committee to determine how many victims are still alive before deciding how much compensation to pay.
Stam, R-Wake, and Rep. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, answered each query. But the vote to approve the bill wasn't unanimous.
Just last week, Tillis and Stam held a press conference to emphasize their support for the measure after another member of their caucus, Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, brought victims and their families to angry tears by arguing against the measure in House Judiciary.
The bill hasn't yet been calendared for a floor vote in the House. Even if it passes, it may run into trouble across the hall. The Senate companion bill has just one Republican sponsor, Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus.
Asked about his caucus's support for the measure today, Senate Leader Phil Berger was noncommittal.
"I couldn't tell you whether or not the votes exist to pass a bill similar to the one that came out of the house committee," Berger said.
Rumors circulated last week that the bill might be used as a bargaining chip in budget negotiations. Tillis pledged that would not happen in the House.