by Brian Balfour, Civitas
Though the General Assembly has loitered past its scheduled conclusion, lawmakers still seem to have time to think of bad bills.
Consider House Bill 803, Healthy and High Performance Schools Act. It is filled with mind-numbing amounts of detail in an attempt to micro-manage the lives of schoolchildren.
Just a sampling of what is included in HB 803 includes:
•An attempt to define — to the milligram — what is a “healthy” breakfast or lunch.
•Extra reimbursement for schools serving “locally grown” food in their meals.
•But schools must provide the names and addresses of the food providers to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
•Instructions on the number of minutes of physical activity in which children should engage. The bill outlines specific times for different grade levels.
•The bill also attempts to define and differentiate “moderate to vigorous physical activity” from other forms of exercise.
•Specific requirements of how many minutes of “health education” instruction students shall receive according to grade level.
•The creation of an “environmental programs” office at DPI.
•The establishment of a “School Gardens Program” at DPI, which will encourage and monitor the creation of gardens on school grounds. Produce grown in the gardens — if determined to be safe — would be served to students. The program would “collect data on the location and types of gardens” in the schools.
The scope and reach of HB 803 is vast and intrusive. Moreover, the reporting and monitoring requirements are dizzying. With more than 2,500 schools across the state, it is difficult to comprehend how much paperwork and bureaucracy would be required to comply with all of the micromanaging included in HB 803. The amount of time, resources and new bureaucrats needed would place an untold strain on taxpayers and school staff.
Or take another bill that has the intention of removing a barrier to employment opportunities for people with a criminal record, but like many bills has unintended consequences that must be pointed out. House Bill 208, Ban the Box, would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their criminal record until after a job offer has been made.
The bill then states the exceptions to this rule are 1) if the employer makes the criminal record inquiry after a conditional job offer has been extended, and 2) “Where the granting of employment may involve an unreasonable risk to the safety of specific individuals or to the general public.”
The commissioner of labor would be charged with defining categories of employment “where an individual’s past criminal history may involve an unreasonable risk to the safety of specific individuals or to the general public.”
So what does this mean for employers seeking to hire workers? For those employers unconcerned about an applicant’s criminal record, there would be no impact. For those who are concerned about an applicant’s criminal record, however, it forces them to go through the hiring process only to be forced to wait until after a job offer is extended before they can ask a very important screening question.
As any business owner or HR manager can tell you, the hiring process can often be a lengthy and expensive one — involving many interviews and reference checks — that expends significant amounts of company resources.
With unemployment in North Carolina continuing to be fifth-highest in the nation, why do state lawmakers want to make the hiring process even more lengthy and expensive by criminalizing a step employers take to expedite the process?
Forcing businesses to expend more resources in the hiring process means they have fewer resources available to hire workers or increase current worker pay.
Moreover, HB 208 represents yet another intrusion by government into the hiring decisions of employers. This distortion into the labor market can only result in a drag on our economy.
These are just a couple of bad bills that have been introduced in this session. North Carolina residents should hope the legislature adjourns before too many of them become law.
—Brian Balfour is policy director of the Civitas Institute in Raleigh.