Civitas Review

Eugenics Compensation Program: Observations and Comments

none
May
23

The participation of North Carolina in a "Eugenics Program" from 1929-1974 was a horrific chapter in our state history. The effort of some legislators to establish a  Eugenics Compensation Program is an acknowledgement that the program was wrong and that individuals were harmed. There are two bills, House Bill 947 and Senate Bill 800, that have been introduced to establish a compensation program for victims. While the sentiment and purpose are right and noble, there are problems in the bills that are rightly causing conservatives problems.

The money allocated in the bills, $10,000,000, is to compensate victims in the amount of $50,000 each. To me there is no amount of adequate compensation for those who had this done to them against their will. But since a number has to be set we will use what is in the bills. The source of the money is one of the problems. The taxpayers of North Carolina are being taxed to compensate for a program approved and run by past members of the political class, none of which ever seem to be publicly named. Names should be named!

More than half of today's residents were not here when this program ended in 1974. A more appropriate source of funds would be to intercept some of the millions of dollars which go to the Golden Leaf Foundation. These funds were part of an agreement by tobacco companies to compensate the states for higher health care spending. This change would result in more general fund money available for state needs and would relieve current taxpayers from funding the remedy for something they had no part in authorizing, allowing or even tolerating.

Another problem is the amount of "administrative overhead" funded. The total spending allocated to state agencies in the bills is $960,000. If that spending is not new spending that will be okay, but I have a suspicion that the amounts allocated to agencies will go up to cover this spending. Again, a good move would be to take the money out of Tobacco Settlement Funds. Here is the list of new state offices and projected spending for this program from HB 947:

  • There is created in the Department of Administration the Office of Justice for Sterilization Victims
  • Industrial Commission, the sum of one hundred eighty-four thousand dollars ($184,000) shall be used for the administration of Section 1 of this act
  • Department of Administration, the sum of six hundred fifty-four thousand dollars ($654,000) shall be used for the expenses of the Office of Justice for Sterilization Victims as set forth in Section 1 of this act
  • Department of Cultural Resources, the sum of fifty-seven thousand dollars ($57,000) shall be used for the electronic scanning and indexing of documents
  • Department of Administration, the sum of one hundred fifty-five thousand dollars ($155,000) shall be used for the creation and maintenance of the database established under this section

The other problem with this bill is the effective date of the payments. Unlike most bills that are effective upon passage or at a date certain in the future, this bill is retroactive.  Section one reads in part: "§ 143B-426.52. Claims for compensation for asexualization or sterilization. Lines 10-13 reads A claim may be submitted on behalf of a claimant by a person lawfully authorized to act on the individual's behalf. A claim may be submitted by the personal representative of an individual who dies on or after March 1, 2010. This appears to "compensate" dead people. While I am sure the lawyers can explain this part in pretty language, if this is to compensate living victims it should not be retroactive. This sets a troubling precedent for future remedies of this type.

The new Republican legislature is to be commended for tackling a difficult issue that past legislatures have avoided, even when state budgets were flush. While righting this horrible wrong they should continue to be conservative in spending the hardworking taxpayers money. A final thought, while not knowing the details around the programs end, it should be noted that it ended under the administration of the first Republican Governor in recent history, Jim Holshouser.