North Carolina passes bill clarifying communication between NCAA, UNC as public record

A bill that classifies communication between University of North Carolina system schools and their athletic conferences as public record passed (61-54) in the North Carolina House Tuesday and will head back to the state’s Senate to approve an amendment.

Senate Bill 323 clarifies that public records include “all documents, papers, letters, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics” in the possession of UNC system schools related to membership or communication with the National Collegiate Athletic Association or any other collegiate sports associations or organizations.

Though these documents are already public record according to the North Carolina Open Records Act, Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) said the new bill is designed to prevent confusion and clarify that materials held by public universities about these affiliations are accessible.

The bill was introduced March 21, with Senators Michael Lee, Ralph Hise and Warren Daniel as its primary sponsors. After passing the Senate in April, the bill was recently amended June 22 by the House to state the act would become effective Oct. 1. An attempt to rewrite Section 1 of the bill did not pass. In order for the bill to head to the governor, the Senate will need to approve the new amendment.

According to the News & Record, the bill is a response to House Bill 2, the controversial “bathroom bill” that many criticized as discriminating against transgender people. The bill was repealed March 30. When the ACC and NCAA pulled their 2016-17 championship games from North Carolina because of HB2, there was some confusion over whether documents related to the pulled championships were considered public record. The new bill aims to clarify this.

The legislation specifically mentions the ACC, of which UNC’s flagship campus is a member, and the NCAA, but the law would apply to all UNC schools, regardless of athletic conference affiliation.