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111 Eugenics Victims Found, Compensation Bill Ready Soon

More than 100 victims of North Carolina's Eugenics Board have come forward and had their status verified in hopes of receiving compensation. NC House Speaker Thom Tillis says a draft bill will be ready for consideration by the first week of April. Until now, the talk of compensating victims has focused only on people who were sterilized by the North Carolina Eugenics Board, which was disbanded in 1974. But the law allowing the state to sterilize people against their will stayed on the books until 2003. Speaker Tillis says those people may also deserve compensation because "it's the same underlying law that was used. The only difference was instead of being ordered by the Eugenics Board it was ordered by the court. So we're going through that and there are some who think that if you didn't do that you're setting yourself up for a legal challenge." Tillis says legislative attorneys are trying to figure how many people were sterilized by court order before 2003. The NC Eugenics Board's records show some 7,600 people were sterilized prior to 1974. A state statistician estimates as many as 2,000 of those may still be alive. If all of them came forward and received the $50,000 recommended by a governor's task force, state lawmakers would have to allocate $100 million for compensation. Tillis says he doesn't expect the legislature to allocate more than $50,000 per victim, but he also doesn't think the expenditure will be a barrier in passing the bill. "Obviously we're going through difficult fiscal times now, but we feel like it's gonna take some time to find these victims and we're not quite sure how many more we will find beyond the 100 or so that have already been identified," says Tillis. A foundation established by the governor to reach out to sterilization victims has received more than 1,300 phone inquiries since January, but only 111 people have been officially identified as Eugenics Board victims. Next week, Tillis plans to announce the names of ten state lawmakers who will serve on a working group that will meet in early April and begin vetting the draft his staff has prepared. Tillis hopes the working group will help advocate for compensating eugenics victims and improve the chances of a of bill passing during the legislature's short session, which begins in May.