Whose rights are right?

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HB755, also known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, isn’t the most egregious legislation to ever pass our General Assembly. That crown will forever belong to HB2, the so-called bathroom bill. That one cost us conventions, new industries, nationwide embarrassment and Pat McCrory’s reelection as governor.

Let’s call the current bill “HB2 light,” since the majority party of our legislature continues their assault on gender identity and sexuality. The Parents’ Bill of Rights passed by the Senate will likely also get approval from the House. If so, count on Gov. Roy Cooper to correctly veto it promptly. For that reason, we won’t waste much time hashing out this odious bill.

But parents aren’t the only ones who have rights. Without breaking a sweat, I can think of several groups who should be granted rights. How about a Teachers’ Bill of Rights? Shouldn’t teachers have the right to teach our children in a comfortable environment with reasonable compensation — at least the national average — avoiding unruly students and parents? And let’s throw in without unnecessary meddling from legislators. Few are willing to go into the classroom and do the job people are so intent on grousing about.

We could suggest a Motorists’ Bill of Rights. Shouldn’t we have the right to drive our highways without somebody driving 15 miles an hour slower than the traffic flow, clogging up the left lane and steadfastly refusing to move right? Why couldn’t we have the right to impose penalties on these construction companies who close lanes of traffic with those red cones for miles upon miles with no noticeable road work being done? And there should be something we could do about those dangerous drivers speeding excessively and darting in and out of traffic? How about drones to capture them on camera and issue tickets, like red-light cameras?

To be sure we need a Patients’ Bill of Rights. Care providers, especially hospitals, should be required to provide the procedure free of charge if they fail to disclose to you what a treatment is going to cost BEFORE actually performing it. And transparency could also show what other care providers charge for the same procedure. Here’s a good one: you have the right to free treatment if the care provider makes you wait longer than 30 minutes after the time of your appointment. Looking at drug costs, shouldn’t pharmaceutical companies compensate you for charging more for a prescription drug than you would pay in another country or part of our country? Seniors in residential facilities should have the right not to be ignored or mistreated. Their facilities could receive fines or even lose their license for neglect or unreasonable treatment. And don’t even get me started about the rights of those with mental illnesses.

A Consumers’ Bill of Rights would penalize stores for having only one register open when more than four customers are lined up waiting to check out. Perhaps consumers could give them grades for customer service, much like those sanitation grades given places that serve food.

Boy, could we ever come up with suggestions for a Voters’ Bill of Rights. How about a guarantee that voters would have gerrymander-free districts drawn by an independent process? Shouldn’t we have the right to recall public servants who don’t serve the public, instead pandering to special interest groups, political parties or caucuses? We would benefit from term limits that required elected officials to return home after a certain number of years in office. And for mercy’s sake, all elected officials’ retirement plans should be scrapped instantly if any tax dollars are paid into them.

Voters unquestionably have the right to know before the election the names and addresses of ALL donors contributing to a candidate, whether the contribution be direct, indirect or in-kind. That especially includes the names and addresses of contributors to dark-money independent expenditure groups. We should know who is trying to influence our elected officials. How about the right to cut off funding to our legislators after a certain number of days in session, forcing them to have more discipline to get their work done?

I recognize that I (and others in my line of work) am opening myself up to passage of a Readers’ and Listeners’ Bill of Rights, which would allow gentle people such as yourself to reign in columnists, pundits, moderators and think-tank employees who bloviate too long, are too biased or outrageous.

No doubt you could come up with other groups who deserve a Bill of Rights. Bring them on! Everyone has rights, so why not codify them like the HB775 Parents’ bill? After a while this voluminous legislation will probably result in our legitimately asking, whose rights are the right rights?

Tom Campbell is a former assistant N.C. State Treasurer and was the creator/host of N.C. SPIN, a weekly statewide television discussion of N.C. issues that aired on UNC-TV until 2020. Contact him at tomcamp@carolinabroadcasting.com.

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