House bill would enact Locke president’s ‘Insko rule’

Rep. Terence Everitt, D-Wake (Image from terenceeveritt.com)
  • House Bill 1027 would require identification of legislators who request special provisions in the state budget bill.
  • John Locke Foundation President Donald Bryson has touted this measure as the "Insko Rule," named for a recently retired Democratic legislator.

A bill filed Tuesday in the N.C. House would identify legislators who request special provisions in the state budget. It’s an idea the John Locke Foundation’s president has touted as the “Insko rule.”

Rep. Terence Everitt, D-Wake, filed House Bill 1027. It would add a new section to state law, with the title “Budget special provisions require identification of requesting committee members.”

“The name of each standing Appropriations committee or subcommittee member who requests that a special provision be included in the Current Operations Appropriations Act (Act) shall appear in the caption of each special provision, along with the provision title, in each iteration of the drafting of the Act, including the ratified version that becomes law,” according to the bill text.

Locke President Donald Bryson trumpeted this idea in an April 11 Carolina Journal column, “N.C. needs the Insko rule for budget transparency.”

Insko, an Orange County Democrat, retired from the General Assembly on March 31. She had served in the N.C. House since 1997.

“The News & Observer has described Insko as a ‘liberal veteran,’ so I don’t often agree with her policy positions,” Bryson wrote in April. “We have disagreed on issues ranging from energy to health care. However, we agree on one crucial area related to the state budget – earmark transparency.”

Bryson highlighted Insko’s February 2017 filing of House Bill 83, a bill titled, “Ensure Budget Transparency.” It would have amended the state budget process to guarantee that “Every special provision contained in the Current Operations Appropriations Act shall indicate the name of the member or members who requested the provision.”

“But what is a special provision?” Bryson asked. “A special provision in the state budget can be boiled down to a more colloquial term — pork-barrel spending. Special provisions are additions to the state budget that are not core state government functions and are pet project spending for lawmakers on parks, high school athletic facilities, or funding for a local nonprofit.”

North Carolina’s budget process differs from the one employed on Capitol Hill, Bryson explained: “Unlike Congress, the North Carolina General Assembly regularly passes a state budget through regular order — a vetting process that includes committees and subcommittees on various parts of the budget like capital spending, education, or public health. Regardless, budget committee chairs have broad powers over how the budget is written, and special provisions make it into the finalized state budget through various means, with little oversight. These budget earmarks can and have fostered an environment of political patronage through the state budget, and it has happened under Democratic and Republican leadership on Jones Street.”

“And so, we come to what I will call ‘the Insko Rule,’” Bryson concluded. “Rep. Insko’s idea from 2017 would mean a small change with huge impacts on budget transparency and accountability.

“Budget earmarks can be for ‘good causes,’ but state legislators are elected from local districts to make decisions on a statewide basis. It is irresponsible to use taxpayer money to fund localized projects that only benefit a select area at the expense of all North Carolina taxpayers without full transparency and vetting through the General Assembly.”

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