Commentary

Making discrimination permanent: Why the latest HB2 proposal is no compromise

As Melissa Boughton reported last night in the post immediately below, a group of House lawmakers proposed legislation yesterday that purports to “repeal” HB2. Here’s why the proposal is ridiculous and deserves the widespread derision it has thus far received:

#1 – It doesn’t actually repeal the old law’s most infamous prohibition – Instead of repealing HB2’s prohibition of local ordinances that would guarantee fair and equal treatment to transgender North Carolinians when it comes to the use of public facilities, it makes the prohibition permanent. That’s right: the supposed “repeal” is even weaker sauce than the “moratorium” compromise floated by conservatives during last December’s special session that would have prevented local ordinances for several months. The new proposal, HB 186 specifically states that:

“The regulation of access to multiple occupancy bathrooms, to showers, and to changing facilities is a matter of general, statewide concern and the entire field of regulation of such access is preempted from regulation except as provided by an act of the General Assembly.”

As a reminder, hundreds of cities across America have guaranteed access to public restrooms based on gender identity for years without any problems. By permanently preventing such a solution in any North Carolina cities, the main thing HB 186 would do is to keep our state mired in the same absurd and embarrassing position it’s been for the past 11 months.

#2 – It offers no protection from discrimination to LGBTQ North Carolinians – The new proposal does absolutely nothing to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ North Carolinians under state law. The only smidgen of a grudging concession contained in the proposal is a section that would allow cities to adopt general nondiscrimination ordinances (that must, of course, have nothing to do with bathrooms). But then the sponsors add a whole new and unprecedented procedure on top of that to allow opponents of such plans to demand local referenda anytime cities try to do the right thing. Great, just what our state needs: dozens of local political campaigns to test whether LGBTQ people should have basic human rights. Can you imagine if we were required to hold public votes on proposals to ban discrimination based on race? It’s a wonder the sponsors didn’t include an appropriation to the haters in Franklin Graham’s operation or the misnamed North Carolina Values Coalition to organize those local challenges.

The bottom line: The new proposal does absolutely nothing meaningful to move North Carolina into the 21st Century on this issue. The sponsors may have been working on it for a long time and sincerely believe that it is a genuine “compromise,” but there’s a much simpler and better solution that has yet to be tried: let the members of the General Assembly have a simple “up or down” vote on a straight repeal of HB2.

Let’s see how lawmakers vote when they are given such an opportunity and then we can determine whether there’s a need for some kind of “compromise.” That Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore will not allow such a vote speaks volumes about what they fear will happen if HB2 is really put to a public test.

HB2, News

2 Republicans, 2 Democrats file HB2 repeal forbidding cities from regulating bathroom access; Cooper expresses concern

Two Republicans and two Democrats have introduced a bill that would repeal House Bill 2 but forbid cities and municipalities from regulating access to multiple occupancy bathrooms, to showers and to changing facilities.

Representatives Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), Ted Davis Jr. (R-New Hanover), Marvin Lucas (D-Cumberland) and Ken Goodman (D-Hoke, Montgomery, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland) are sponsoring the bill.

Right under the section repealing HB2, House Bill 186 reads:

The regulation of access to multiple occupancy bathrooms, to showers, and to changing facilities is a matter of general, statewide concern and the entire field of regulation of such access is preempted from regulation except as provided by an act of the General Assembly.

McGrady said at an impromptu press conference (that he initially denied was going to be held) that he had been working on the bill for 10 months.

He said he did not have the votes for a straight-up full repeal of HB2, despite Democrats and Gov. Roy Cooper saying for months that there are enough votes if Republicans would just put a bill on the floor.

“[This is] certainly the best starting point we’ve had up until now,” he said.

Cooper presented a compromise last week to HB2 that Republicans scoffed at. McGrady said Wednesday that he would need Cooper to secure enough Democratic votes to pass HB186.

McGrady also said he did not run the bill by Cooper before filing it, adding “I don’t report to the governor.”

Cooper responded late Wednesday with concerns about HB186 and said he remains committed to repealing HB2.

“But I am concerned that this legislation as written fails the basic test of restoring our reputation, removing discrimination, and bringing jobs and sports back to North Carolina,” he said. “I will keep working with the legislature.”

When asked if HB 186 would appease the NCAA, ACC and other organizations that have refused to hold events in North Carolina, McGrady said he couldn’t speak for them but he didn’t see why it wouldn’t.

“I think we’ve hit the sweet spot,” he said.

HB186 would put in place a statewide non-discrimination law that does not include any language about sexual orientation or gender identity. In some places, it replaces the word “gender” with “sex.”

The bill would give cities the authority to adopt nondiscrimination measures to protect the LGBTQ community but it comes with caveats and a public referendum clause. Cities would have to wait 90 days to implement such a measure and if opponents gathered enough signatures against it, it would be put up to the referendum.

If a nondiscrimination measure was adopted, it would not apply to extraterritorial jurisdiction, bathrooms, showers or changing facilities, state or county entities or charitable organizations and religious institutions.

The bill also strengthens penalties for certain offenses in a public changing facility or a changing facility in a place of public accommodations.

Despite claims that the bill is “bipartisan” and constitutes a “full repeal” of HB2, many Democrats and human rights advocates are not pleased.

“H186 is in no way, shape, or form a repeal of the discrimination of #HB2. Don’t believe anyone who tries to say it is. #ncpol,” tweeted Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake).

Equality NC Executive Director called HB186 a “train wreck” on Twitter and said the Democrats sponsoring the bill are doubling down on discrimination.

“.@ChuckMcGrady thinks your civil rights should be up for a vote, #lgbtq NC’ans. Do you agree? #ncpol,” Sgro tweeted.

The ACLU of North Carolina tweeted that the bill would make it harder for cities to pass LGBT protections.

House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson (D-Wake) also tweeted his disapproval of the bill.

“James Madison: Government should ‘protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.’ We cannot put NDO’s to a vote of the majority,” the tweet states.

News

Bills, threats recall NC’s militia movement of the 1990s

Worth your time today: Susan Ladd, columnist for the News & Record in Greensboro, writing about how a recent story about conservatives calling for violence against Muslims at a meeting in Kernersville is eerily reminiscent of the 1990s militia movement.

From Ladd’s column:

If you are inclined to laugh at the picture of Tea Party members and conservatives gathered in a seafood restaurant preparing for a Muslim takeover of America, please don’t.

Some people had that reaction to the investigative series Stan Swofford and I reported about N.C.’s militia movement in 1995, shortly after the bombing of the Edward P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh. But this is the kind of conspiracy theory nonsense that gets people killed.

Jordan Green’s report of this meeting in Kernersville for Triad City Beat is eerily similar to the so-called Patriot Movement meetings Stan and I attended more than 20 years ago.

Read the whole column – particularly if, like me, you could use a reminder of North Carolina’s part in the militia movement.

It’s worth remembering now as some of the same N.C. lawmakers who are sponsoring bills to do away with concealed cary permits and other gun control measures are also pushing bills that would allow North Carolina to secede from the United States and warning of the possibility of a coming war with the federal government.

News

House GOP rebuffs call for gender, racial diversity on school funding task force

Desks in a classroom.State House Republicans leading the push to assemble a school funding reform task force rejected calls from at least one Democrat Wednesday that lawmakers assure gender and racial diversity on the pivotal task force.

The debate came as House legislators gave their tentative approval to create a task force of 18 lawmakers, although the draft of House Bill 6 will require a third vote of approval from the chamber Thursday.

At that time, lawmakers are expected to hear multiple amendments, including one pushed by Democrats intended to ensure diversity on the panel, which is expected to prepare legislative recommendations for school funding reform by next October.

“Let’s get started on a fundamental revamp of how we fund public education in this state,” said Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican who co-sponsored the bill.

The draft before the House Wednesday does include a handful of concessions that emerged from committee debate on the bill, including promises that the task force assembled by GOP leadership will “reflect geographic and urban/rural diversity,” as well as the guarantee that the panel includes at least one member from the minority party in each chamber.

However, called upon by Rep. Verla Insko, a Democrat from Orange County, to go a step further by making a pledge for gender and racial diversity, Horn described the proposal as “micromanaging.”

“There’s no reason to believe the (House) Speaker and Senate President will not take all those things into consideration,” said Horn.

It’s clear why Insko would seek promises of racial diversity, as some of North Carolina’s poorest counties, with the most high-need schools, have a disproportionate share of minority students.

Legislators authored House Bill 6 after a November report from the General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division (PED) complained of serious fissures in the state’s complicated method of funding public schools.

That report alleged glaring deficiencies in funding between rich and poor counties, as well as insufficient allocations for students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency.

However, N.C. Justice Center analyst Kris Nordstrom has argued that ditching the state’s current system could only worsen the divide between poor and wealthy districts.

Read more

News

Sheriffs, anti-gun control group have tangled before

If you haven’t yet read today’s story on two new gun bills that seek to do away with concealed carry permits in North Carolina, you should.

We also have an update for you.

On Wednesday Rep. Rena Turner (R-Iredell) filed House Bill 174. It would allow concealed carry on church-school properties outside of school hours.

In today’s story we quoted Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes, who is co-chairman of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association’s legislative committee, as saying he thinks doing away with concealed carry permitting and restrictions is dangerous.

This isn’t the first time Barnes – or the Sheriffs’ Association – has butted heads with anti-gun law forces.

Back in 2013 Barnes opposed a bill that would have done away with pistol permitting by sheriff’s departments altogether. He faced blowback and even threats of opposition in his next sheriff’s race. Barnes, consistently one of Guilford County’s most popular elected Republicans, said he wasn’t intimidated and went on to win handily.

At that time Barnes, who has for years taken to Facebook to make statements to the public, was getting a lot of negative online comments from people who questioned his conservative credentials.

“When their Facebook profile picture is of an M-16 or a Rebel Flag, you know where their hearts are,” Barnes said. “To them, it’s about guns, guns, guns. To me, it’s about public safety.”

Among those criticized Barnes then was Paul Valone, president and co-founder of gun rights activist group Grassroots North Carolina.

Valone’s group is backing the concealed carry-related bills again this year and had some choice words for Barnes and the Sheriffs’ Association in an interview this week.

“BJ Barnes was once very pro Second Amendment,” Valone said. “Now he’s very pro BJ Barnes.”

The Sheriffs’ Association is controlled by lobbyists and doesn’t really represent on-the-street law enforcement officers, many of whom feel the same way about guns that his group does.

Barnes laughed at that.

“For Paul, it’s all about raising money,” Barnes said. “Everything he does, he ends it with ‘send us money’ – so he likes whipping up a controversy.”

Valone and his group stirred up controversy last year when they raffled off an M-4 configured AR-15, a thousand rounds of ammunition and a portrait of Hillary Clinton they suggested people might enjoy using as target practice.

NC Policy Watch covered the raffle then, which ended up getting international attention.

“I want to thank Policy Watch for their coverage,” Valone said this week. “We ended up getting a lot more attention and raising a lot of money. I had people calling from the BBC and people buying raffle tickets in countries where they couldn’t even own the gun. It was great!”