Update from Tuesday’s session: Boseman’s bill was removed from the calendar and debate rescheduled for June 7. The hitch may be that the bill, though more specific, does the same thing (repeal the program) as a special provision in the recently passed Senate budget (S1741 Section 10.4).
On Tuesday, the Senate is scheduled to debate S1210, a bill that would repeal the kindergarten eye exam program that got House Speaker James Black into hot water. The speaker, a respected Mathews optometrist, last year was entrusted with more than a hundred undated checks with the recipient’s name left blank from the North Carolina State Optometric Society’s PAC–an age-old practice that the State Board of Elections thinks might just be illegal. Still, Black’s not backing down, though. A counter provision is bubbling up in the House that could be titled: “Hell no, we’re not repealing the eye exams.”
How strange is this square-off likely to get? Senate sponsor Julia Boseman, a New Hanover Democrat, is determined, calling it an unfair and expensive burden to put on parents. In all, 87 school boards are suing the state (pdf) over the requirement. But the program has its backers. The Optometric Society’s president Dr. Hal Herring told Senators at a recent hearing that his organization would not abandon the children of North Carolina. “We will stand with them, even if we stand alone,” he said. The society’s members also stand to see some business. According to the school board suit, this year about 119,000 children will enter kindergarten in North Carolina, where an exam will run you somewhere between $50 to $165.