The bill, introduced by Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, would require governmental bodies to pay the legal fees of parties that win public records lawsuits against the government.
"Very few people can afford to litigate these days," said Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, in support of the bill.
The bill would also create a new open government unit within the Department of Justice that would be responsible for the education and mediation of public records and open meetings law issues.
The committee approved the bill after it defeated an amendment by Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, that would have stripped the legal fee requirement from the bill. Clodfelter argued that judges are already allowed to assess fees under a law negotiated three years ago.
"What I don't like about the bill is that it's going to be thrown out the window now," Clodfelter said about the three-year-old law.