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Whistleblower gag bill clears Senate Commerce

Posted May 7, 2013
Updated May 8, 2013

— A bill that would make it harder for journalists and advocacy groups to investigate factory farms cleared the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday. 

The bill combines several different measures, including limitations on when the attorney general can hire outside lawyers and requiring those hires to be better disclosed.

However, the part of the measure that got the most discussion deals with what its sponsors say is employment fraud.

Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, said the provision is aimed at protecting intellectual property. For example, Jackson said his farm might use a process for cleaning melons that he believes is superior to processes used by other farmers. 

"I don't want someone coming in and taping our process," he said.

However, opponents of the measure say it would prohibit investigations that uncover examples of animal abuse and the like. For example, a 2011 hidden-video investigation led to the conviction of workers and the state's former top poultry veterinarian. Under this bill, the worker who made those video tapes could be subject to prosecution.

"This is an expansion of government that's not necessary," said Ashley Perkinson, who spoke for the ASPCA and Humane Society. She said businesses already have protections that apply to theft, intellectual property and fraud. 

"This is not a transparency bill," said Matthew Dominguez with the Humane Society of the United States. "These are anti-whistleblower bills." 

At the beginning of the meeting, committee Chairman Rick Gunn announced the bill would be "for discussion only," a signal that no vote would be taken on the bill.

But part of the way through the discussion, Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, declared, "Mr. Chairman, I really like this bill. I don't know why you don't move it forward." 

Gunn, R-Alamance, looked at Apodaca but didn't respond. However, when Apodaca pushed his point, Gunn accepted his motion to send the measure on to a Senate judiciary committee.

The bill cleared the Commerce Committee on a voice vote.

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  • mycatsbreathsmellslikecatfood May 8, 6:42 p.m.

    The risk/reward ratio for whistleblowers is great. It's not for everyone, but if you want to learn how to blow the whistle from a veteran whistleblower, check out my blog: http://thoughtforyourpenny.blogspot.com/2012/06/anonymous-project-mayhem-tips.html

  • wanderer May 8, 12:34 p.m.

    "What we need to do is to strengthen the rights of whistle blowers."

    Can't do that. Doing that could cause problems for companies who contribute to us reducing our money intake.

  • downtowner May 8, 11:53 a.m.

    I agree that the GOP does know that their base voters are dumb. However, they take it a step further to demonize whistle-blowers publicly, when in fact it takes courage and a strong sense of justice to be a whistle blower. What we need to do is to strengthen the rights of whistle blowers.

  • teleman60 May 8, 11:35 a.m.

    The gop don't 'think' their base voters are dumb, they KNOW they are!
    In the last 8 weeks the gop have gone beyond ANY gop state legislature in American history with their crazy religion, social and over the top tax and corp bills.

    Every day gets crazier -- today yet another 'prayer in schools' bill!~

    Cutting taxes on the wealthy by 50% and plan to make it up from SALES TAXES!

    Even right leaning friends are freaking out.

    Welcome to republican world where Andy and Opie wear those BROWN SHIRTS and goose step to McCrory and company's tune...

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh May 8, 11:03 a.m.

    An anti-whistle blowing bill, intended to protect abusive, dangerous, and unlawful practices from being exposed.

    Shameful and disgusting.

    What a bitter disappointment this legislature has been to the people of North Carolina!

  • Grand Union May 8, 10:45 a.m.

    "Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, said the provision is aimed at protecting intellectual property. For example, Jackson said his farm might use a process for cleaning melons that he believes is superior to processes used by other farmers.
    "I don't want someone coming in and taping our process," he said."

    yeah sure......just how dumb do the GOP think the people of NC are......
    There are already laws against industrial espionage......so thats just a red herring put up so that Companies can continue methods and processes that almost all would find repugnant.