The Honorable Cary Allred The North Carolina General Assembly Room 609, Legislative Office Building Raleigh, North Carolina
Re: Advisory Opinion; N.C.G.S. § 143-153
Dear Representative Allred:
By letter dated June 1, 2001, from Barbara Riley you asked for our opinion regarding the scope of N.C.G.S. § 143-153. That statute provides as follows:
§ 143-153. Keeping swine near State institutions; penalty. On the petition of a majority of the legal voters living within a radius of one quarter of a mile of the administrative building of any State educational or charitable institution, it shall be unlawful for any person to keep swine or swine pens within such radius of one quarter of a mile. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor and shall be subject to only a fine of not less than ten dollars ($10.00) nor more than fifty dollars ($50.00). (1909, c. 706; C.S., s. 7527; 1993, c. 539, s. 1015; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 14, s. 62; c. 24, s. 14(c).)
Your specific questions are: (1) whether a public school is a “State educational institution” within the meaning of N.C.G.S. § 143-153 and (2) whether a church is a “State educational or charitable institution” within the meaning of that statute.
N.C.G.S. § 143-153 was enacted in 1909 but there are no reported cases construing its terms. There is, however, no ambiguity in the statute with respect to its application to churches. By its plain terms, it does not apply to protect any church or other non-governmental organization; its coverage is limited entirely to governmental entities, i.e., to “State” entities.
The scope of the statute’s coverage of governmental entities is much less clear. Chapter 143 of the General Statutes generally applies to state agencies and institutions. For purposes of Chapter 143, local public schools are sometimes treated as state institutions and sometimes not. Compare: N.C.G.S. §§ 143-128 et seq. (public schools covered by state construction contract procedures) and N.C.G.S. §§ 143-300.2 et seq. (public school employees generally not covered The Honorable Cary Allred June 12, 2001 Page 2
by Defense of State Employees Act). In this instance it appears likely that the General Assembly did not intend the phrase “State educational institution” to encompass local public schools. Ordinarily, “a statute is to be interpreted as it was intended to be understood at the time of its enactment.” State v. Emery, 224 N.C. 581, 585 31 S.E.2d 858 (1999) When N.C.G.S. § 143-153 was first enacted in 1909 it was codified as C.S. § 7527. While neither C.S. § 7527 nor any other statute expressly defined the term “State educational institution,” a companion statute, C.S. § 7442, did list the “State educational institutions” which were to receive direct legislative appropriations. The institutions listed were public colleges and universities or state-wide institutions like the State School for the Blind. Local public schools were not included. For this reason, we conclude that the General Assembly likely did not intend the phrase “State educational institution” as used in N.C.G.S. § 143-153 to include local public schools. Moreover, it should be noted that the statute does not protect all buildings of “State educational institutions”; it only protects their “administrative buildings.”
Please call if we can provide additional advice regarding this matter.
Very truly yours,
Edwin M. Speas, Jr.
Chief Deputy Attorney General