County right to challenge law
A state statute is blocking the way for equal representation.
That is presenting a problem for the counties within the new Smoky Mountain Center representation zone — including Rutherford County.
The law (G.S. 122C-118.1) states “an area board shall have no fewer than 11 and no more than 21 voting members.”
The problem this creates is with 23 counties represented under the merger agreement between Western Highlands Network and Smoky Mountain Center — an entity that has yet to be named — some counties will be left out.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that 13 members of the new board aren’t governmental representatives. They represent providers and families within the new network.
By our math, that leaves eight members to represent the 23 county commissions in the region.
Not even members of the new board feel it is right to have such limited representation for such a large area.
The function of the new entity is to help with behavioral health matters within the network.
It is a vast responsibility that is never easy.
The new body needs a board that speaks for all of its members, not just a select few.
County commissions in the network have, or will, approve a 21-member board comprised of the 13 provider/family representatives and eight county officials — of which Rutherford County Manager Carl Classen is one.
Classen told the Rutherford County Commission Monday he hopes this board will be “interim” but because the law is how it is currently, there is no choice to keep the operation functioning.
A breath later, commissioners voted to submit a resolution to Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford and Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Spruce Pine, asking the North Carolina General Assembly to change its law and allow for an increased board presence for the new entity.
We understand the fact that the law is the law.
However, sometimes those laws need to be changed to account for changes in the landscape such as the merger of Western Highlands and Smoky Mountain Center.
Under normal circumstances, the current law would not be a problem. However, times have changed and the creation of this new organization has presented a need for changes in state law.
We are encouraged by the actions of county commissioners in western North Carolina in asking state lawmakers to consider changing the law when the General Assembly reconvenes for its short session in May.
We also ask that lawmakers take the resolutions seriously and actively seek a change in the law.
It is only right to allow each county to be represented on a board with such a vast undertaking.
By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board
The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Tom Padgett and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark.