Under the Dome

NC House votes down ban on school board lawsuits

The N.C. House voted down a bill that would have banned school boards from suing the county commissions that provide their funding.

The failure of House Bill 726 Tuesday night by a 52-66 vote marked a rare occasion in which legislation was placed on the House floor without majority support.

The bill generated more than an hour of heated debate – some House members who have served on county commissions supported the bill, while others whose previous political experience was on a school board opposed it.

The bill sponsor, Rep. Debra Conrad of Winston-Salem, said the bill would prevent costly lawsuits that leave taxpayers stuck with legal fees.

“We do not need to be wasting dollars in the courtroom,” she said, adding that the two elected boards should instead “have a constant open dialogue.”

Rep. Gary Pendleton, a Raleigh Republican and a former Wake County Commission chairman, said he found that the school board was always seeking more funding by any means possible.

Rep. Bobbie Richardson, a Louisburg Democrat and a former school board member, said the legal option is necessary for school boards.

“We hope that school boards and county commissions can work in collaboration, but when they cannot, there needs to be an alternate means,” Richardson said. “The people that will be hurt the most are the students that we serve.”