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Eugenics Compensation Facing Early Legislative Hurdles

An effort to compensate living victims of North Carolina's now-defunct eugenics program is facing early opposition as lawmakers prepare to meet. Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger Wednesday said he doesn't support the plan as it was proposed last year and hasn't brought it up with his Republican colleagues. 

Last year, the State House passed with overwhelming support a measure that would pay $50,000 each to people who were forcibly sterilized by the state and are still alive.  Some 7,600 people were victims of the North Carolina Eugenics program but fewer than 200 have come forward who are still living.  That would make the total price of the compensation bill less than $10 million.  But Republican Senate leaders refused to consider it and President Phil Berger says he still doesn't like it.

"I'm concerned about overall long-term budget impact we would see as result of opening up the way that legislation described it," says Berger.

Berger says he's not even broached the subject with the Senate Republican Caucus.  Over in the House, Republican Speaker Thom Tillis remains a committed champion of eugenics compensation, says spokesman Jordan Shaw.

"It is just as important this year as it was last year for Speaker Tillis," says Shaw. "He continues to believe it's the right thing to do. It's the right time to do it." 

Shaw says the measure could be reintroduced as early as February.

On the campaign trail, Governor Pat McCrory said he supported compensation for eugenics victims, too. The strength of McCrory's support will be evident if he includes money for the victims in his own state budget proposal as Governor Bev Perdue did.