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Reader’s Forum — 5-31-13

House bill would harm camp meeting

Last week “Crossover Day” passed in the North Carolina Legislature. It is a deadline set by the General Assembly to ensure non-budget bills clear their originating chamber with enough time to be heard by the other chamber prior to adjournment. House Bill 288 filed in the House of Representatives by member Jason Saine did not emerge out of committee therefore it appears to be dead for this session. The bill was designed to exempt Lincoln County from the earliest school start date allowed by statue of the Monday closest to August 26th and establish a new date of August 1st.
According to a conversation I had with Rep. Saine the reason was to give the Lincoln County Board of Education more flexibility. My opinion is the use of the word is nothing more than a word game. I see the definition of flexibility in this situation as a way to cover a desire to have a school calendar with an earlier start date than currently allowed. If an earlier school opening is not desired why is flexibility needed? One argument for an earlier start date is tests can be completed prior to Christmas holidays. I will not get into my opinion on that argument.
No, I do not have children in a county school. My reason for having concern is the preservation and well-being of America’s oldest continuous camp meeting, the Rock Spring Camp Meeting held annually beginning the first Sunday in August near Denver.
Rep. Saine mentioned in a recent newspaper article that he attends the Rock Spring Camp Meeting. Hopefully he was present a few years ago when a previous school board scheduled the school start without consideration for this annual historical happening. If he did attend I’m confident he witnessed firsthand the most damaging impact on the over 200 year old Lincoln County tradition that in my lifetime the institution has experienced. Hopefully this will be the end of the bill but should it be filed in another session the sponsor of it should give more consideration to what can be affected and make an effort to inform the thousands of Lincoln County residents that participate in such events.
I suggested to Rep. Saine that perhaps some local public information meetings prior to filing the bill would have been helpful. He stated that is a mechanism used mainly by local governments. If he can meet with a group of elected officials to discuss an issue what is his problem with hearing from his constituency and giving them an opportunity to express their concerns or support in a local setting especially when a bill appears to be so controversial?
According to Rep. Saine the request for the bill was made at a meeting of county and school officials with state representatives present. I still believe issues of this type should be on the agenda at regular school board meetings and each member’s vote should be recorded and then presented to our representatives for consideration.
Rep. Saine stated in the mentioned newspaper article the bill would have provided Lincoln County the right to set its own school calendar with regards to local events, especially those like camp meeting. Once again I call Rep. Saine’s attention to Rock Spring Camp Meeting not being given consideration by a previous school board and I do not desire to see history repeated.
In conclusion I would like to thank the many citizens of this county that have called, emailed or spoke to me on the street expressing opposition to HB288. Many reasons for opposition have been given including summer student employment, summer youth camps, tourism and vacations but most opposed HB288 due to possible damage to Rock Spring Camp Meeting.  I urge those that have expressed opposition contact Rep. Saine and express their view.

Terry Brotherton
Denver

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