NC Commerce Secretary says legislature, protests making it hard to sell North Carolina

Note: The Commerce Department has taken issue with my characterization of Decker’s comments,  please see a note about their objections below.

N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker told a group of reporters in Raleigh Monday that turmoil and conflict surrounding this year’s state legislative session has made it difficult to sell North Carolina on the national stage.

“I’m fielding calls every day , ‘what the heck’s going on (over) there?,’” Decker said, in response to a question about the turmoil surrounding this year’s legislative session. She added, “The current environment makes it very challenging to market North Carolina.”

Decker’s comments were made Monday while speaking to a group of reporters in Raleigh and were in response to a question about how receptive businesses were to the state given the national attention that the ambitious, conservative agenda, including an extensive proposal to change the state’s tax system, at the N.C. General Assembly have earned. The weekly arrests of protestors upset at what they see is an agenda that hurts the poor and middle-class at “Moral Mondays” events have also brought a considerable amount of national attention to the state.

N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker

N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker

She also said that the state’s current corporate income tax is too high in order to be competitive, and that she plans on continuing to use incentives as a way to lure employers to the state.

Decker added to her comments, saying that she doesn’t believe the state has lost any jobs as a result of the controversy surrounding Jones Street but has heard from company’s concerned about what will happen to the state’s corporate tax rates.

North Carolina has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation, and Decker said she’s been concentrating much of her effort on addressing job shortfalls.

This year has seen weekly arrests of protests at Moral Monday’s events and messages coming from Republican leaders in the legislature has been about a state left with broken systems after decades of Democratic leadership.

Click here to read the latest Associated Press article that raises questions about whether the criminal charges filed against the nearly 700 protesters are appropriate.

The AP article (by Michael Biesecker) included the following observations from last week’s Senate debate about a bill that will greatly restrict abortions in the state.

More than 500 people, mostly women, showed up Wednesday after the Senate voted along party lines to move ahead with restrictions on abortion with no advance public notice or hearings. They filled the gallery overlooking the Senate chamber, and 100 more packed the atrium outside.

Among them was Jennifer Hesse of Cary, who held up a plastic clothes hanger — a symbol of the back-alley abortions she said would result from the restrictions. As she spoke with a reporter, two General Assembly police officers approached, one snatching the hanger from her hand.

“Ma’am, you can’t have that here,” Officer Frank Flores said.

Pressed on what law Hesse violated, Flores said it was “building rules” — an amorphous statute that includes prohibitions against littering, damaging decorative plants, possessing weapons, or carrying signs and placards of more than 25 square inches.

Moments later, officers approached 30-year-old Katina Gad of Raleigh, who had been ejected from the Senate gallery after yelling “Shame on you!” as Republicans voted to send the anti-abortion bill to the House. As photographers and cameramen tried to capture images of Gad being handcuffed on a disorderly conduct charge, officers swarmed around.

When a cameraman tried to angle his shot around the blockade, an officer shoved him and knocked him back several steps. A member of the sergeant-at-arms’ staff assisting police drew back an aluminum cane over his head, threatening to whack those observing.

Last month, officers arrested a Charlotte Observer reporter who was interviewing those being arrested

 Note and clarification (July 11): This post has been altered from the original to add more context about Decker’s comments.

In addition, Commerce Department spokespeople have taken issue with N.C. Policy Watch’s post, and said that Decker did not comment directly on the Moral Monday protests and arrests. but rather said the challenges stem from uncertainty surrounding the efforts to change the state’s tax structure.

We disagree, and feel Decker’s comments about the challenges selling the state directly in response to questions about the legislative climate as well as the weekly protests. There is audio below of some of her comments below for readers to decide for themselves. Decker also spoke later in the luncheon about fielding calls from outside the state after a reporter asked her about the effects of turmoil surrounding this year’s legislative session.

27 Comments

  1. Doug

    July 8, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    These “Money Moron Monday” people need to give it up. Between making themselves look like petulant toddlers and depriving the state of needed economic expansion (which would benefit the people they say they are there for) they are actually doing more harm than good. The surprising thing is you heard it here first.

  2. Susan

    July 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Give me one, just one bill in the past 7 months that involved jobs? Let me see….bills presented and/or passed taking county water, decreasing money and weeks of unemployment, anti sharia law, increasing taxes on social security, food, pharmaceuticals, involving themselves in women’s privates, creating loopholes in small business tax deduction to benefit very wealthy , McCrory giving his staffers 8% raises…oh gosh, I’m out of breath! :)

  3. Susan

    July 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Thank you, thank you Govnr’ McCrory for working so hard on those jobs bills! (Don’t forget! The Republicans have had majority since 2011) I agree Doug! Where are the jobs? Do ya think that’s why Moral Mondays started? I’m stealing this one from ya’ll repubs “Don’t tread on me!”

  4. Gen

    July 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    What is making it difficult to sell NC is the North Carolina General Assembly and the governor who have focused on regressive punishing policies and who have interfered in individual city and county business instead of focusing on jobs. Think about the City of Asheville where they decided to seize the city’s water supply. They’ve made government into a larger Big Brother state which doesn’t care about women, education, health, and quality of life. They are making our state look like an idiocracy. Why would businesses want to relocate in a state of small minded bigots?

  5. Rev. Carl Johnson

    July 8, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Doug, you either have skin in the game or not. If you have no wife or daughter, or a son who hopes to marry, you can probably afford a closemindedness as to why these protesters are availing themselves of their rights to peaceably protest.

    I would submit to you, that perhaps the IQs of the Moral Monday protesters would probably surprise you, until you remembered that education, in the GOP mind, is elitist, as they depend on an iignorant base to keep themselves in power.

    If you don’t want to send your kids to a quality public education, allow true democracy in voting by all citizens, or to allow your children their rights to choose personal medical decisions, and other issues, you’re completely within your rights to do so.

    It’s my right to protest what I feel are ATROCIOUS legislation and laws being passed.

  6. Carol Cumbie

    July 8, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Speaking of making it hard to solicit companies to NC, just wanted to add to the news about our state’s new national reputation. Michael Friedman, Princeton economist, author and writer for the New York Times, made North Carolina the centerpiece of his 6/30/13 NYT editorial about the lasting negative economic effects of reducing and cutting off unemployment.

  7. Jack

    July 8, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Republicans believe that demonstrating for the right to a responsive government that represents the people is a shameful thing.

  8. Frances Jenkins

    July 8, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    However, you lost the redistricting case.

  9. Dana Moore

    July 9, 2013 at 7:22 am

    The Moral Monday Crowd is well with the rights of the constitution, exercising their right to protest. As a matter of fact, this movement is not going away, it is gaining steam. Now over 700 arrested and I think the gatherings are getting bigger. As I watch, I learn. I felt I could not stay on the sidelines. 5 years ago I realized that this was not representative governing, I moved over to the left. Since then I now feel that not only did I make the right choice but we need MORE. @ DOUG, come and join us, open your eyes and see that ALL need to be represented. I love North Carolina but we have alot work to do. Come to the next gathering!

  10. Doug Gibson

    July 9, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Well, yes we did. And you, my dear Frances, lost Roe v. Wade. But that doesn’t stop you from trying, does it?

  11. Frances Jenkins

    July 9, 2013 at 8:26 am

    And you have lost part of the voting act, will you follow the rule of law? Moral Monday is not following the rule of the law and that does not stop them.

  12. ron rollings

    July 9, 2013 at 9:23 am

    As an old white man from SC I feel that I must commend the Rev. Carl Johnson. You sir have hit the nail on the head. Both SC and NC are known for their opinionated, bigoted old white men who think they are entitled to tell the younger generation and women of all generations what to do. Despite the conservative mantra we actually need roads to ride on, safe food to eat and sensible regulation to keep us safe. We do NOT need morality dictators with a speculum in hand to stand between a woman and her physician. I am thinking that Pat McRory must be disappointed in Sharon Decker because she actually said something sensible.

  13. Doug

    July 9, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Rev J.
    I do actaully have all of those as you say “skin in the game” attributes. I however want to preserve the state rather than spend us into oblivion.

    My question to you however is….why are you so up in arms that the government is considering less social spending? I assume it is because you, like many so called “reverends” have their own financial “skin in the game” to advocate for. Otherwise you and your ilk would spend their time considering being actual leaders in their organizations and picking up the slack that the government is (as it should) giving up. You expect it from the occupy and self professed leftist leaches….but all these faux reverends willing to give up their task in order to serve governement (Ceaser). Give Ceaser what is his and all….. quite the usual liberal hypocricy.

    https://www.nccivitas.org/2013/moneymonday/

  14. ron rollings

    July 9, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Doug, It is quite amazing that you try to quote Shakespeare and cannot spell Caeser. Perhaps that is because your spellcheck is confusing it with the word cease. Ewe can right awl day and con fuse spell check moor oft tin than knot. You give credence to Carl’s estimation of the GOP mind.

  15. Gailya Paliga

    July 9, 2013 at 11:59 am

    The NC Commerce Secretary has it backwards. The NCGA and their attacks on women, minorities, low wage workers, middle class, public education and families makes it hard to sell NC. Why would anyone move here now? From the beginning, the NCGA refused tons of federal money for health care coverage and health care jobs too (by reversing the Medicaid expansion – billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs). Not to mention for longterm unemployment insurance (federal money here too). That was all done by March.

    Now sneaky attacks on women. Last week, the NC Senate made HB695 an omnibus antiabortion bill just before Independence Day and during the holiday week. They know what they’re doing is wrong and are trying to sneak it through.

    No, NC is a hard sell because the NCGA is screwing it up, plain and simple. Where is the Governor to advocate for us? Ditching children again?

  16. ron rollings

    July 9, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Well, everyone must be asleep..Caesar is actually spelled Caesar (not Caeser).

  17. ron rollings

    July 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    By the way Doug, I don’t know if Shakespeare ever used that quote..It’s actually from the Bible.

  18. Enviro Equipment Inc.

    July 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    I’m sure the North Carolina tourism industry has taken a hit from the protests over the NC legislature’s extreme Republican agenda but we sell to clients all over the country and haven’t heard a single comment about it from any of them. I wouldn’t doubt, though, that many of them are familiar with the process but simply choose not to bring it up.

  19. Doug

    July 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks for spell checking ron now we know yhou be educated….yeah, that is what was important about the commentt. And yes, I know it is from the Bible…that is why I used it…..duh. It seem you are confused as to sources though, since you are all over the board. Next thing you know you are going to think this comment is quoting Jay-Z or Snoopy Dog.

  20. ron rollings

    July 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Nah, I ain’t much educated; just heard it somewhere. But my Ma usta say, “As ye do unto the least of them so ye do unto me”; It appears some of our politicians don’t honor that one very well. Oh! By the way;sure hope you weren’t trying to get racist on me there.

  21. Doug Gibson

    July 9, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Frances,

    When a protester breaks the law on a Moral Monday, he goes to jail. None of those who have paid that penalty think themselves above the law, or entitled to break it without consequences. But I guarantee you that ten years down the road several suits filed under what is left of the Voting Rights Act will prevail, and the jurisdictions that broke the law and enacted voting barriers that discriminated against minorities will whine and moan about their legal fees and the fact that federal courts are forcing them to submit to the fifteenth amendment.

    Because you see, dearie, that’s what the Voting Rights Act is about. Requiring federal, state, and local governments to comply with the law of the land. The only people happy about the recent decision gutting it are those who think themselves above the law.

  22. Doug

    July 9, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Gibson,
    Guess we will see. Until then keep your hopes and dreams in that bucket…and watch them evaporate away. See the VRA has already been chipped away at by the SCOTUS. Not sure where you come up with above the law in that the law has been struck down….but whatever.

  23. Doug Gibson

    July 10, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Doug,

    It’s very simple, really. I’m pretty sure you’ve grasped it already, in fact, and are just trying to further the discussion. For that I thank you.

    All the VRA does is put enforcement mechanisms in place for the fifteenth amendment. One of those mechanisms was requiring jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting laws and regulations to pre-clear any new laws through the courts. That’s gone (for the moment: national pre-clearance anyone?), but those affected by discrimination can still sue. So now all those jurisdictions who want to change their laws to make it harder for minorities to vote can do so—until, that is, they lose in court, at which point I expect they’ll complain about having been forced to comply with the U.S. Constitution. It’s a world gone mad!

    See the VRA has already been chipped away at by the SCOTUS.

    Honestly, Doug, the crowing is a little unseemly. The best any justice could do in defense of repealing the entire act was Clarence Thomas, and even he seems simply to be of the opinion that it’s not fair for the nation as a whole to tell individual states that they can’t put in place the most bigoted laws imaginable. He doesn’t defend bigotry—he just thinks states have the right to enact bigoted statutes. So you might say that your apparent hope that the VRA will just go away completely was defeated 8-1. Of course, you will never say that, but people in general certainly could.

  24. Greg Hamby

    July 10, 2013 at 11:19 am

    This what happens when backwards thinking people get into the Legislature…..

  25. Doug Gibson

    July 10, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Right, guess we’ll have to see. Of course, the Supreme Court did just repeal DOMA and invalidate Prop 8—and not too long ago they upheld the ACA. And federal courts have been happily invalidating voting restrictions via pre-clearance for decades—as they did in 2012 with Pennsylvania’s voter ID law. So what we’ll be seeing, basically, are a bunch of unregenerate throwbacks to the 19th century throw every one of their principles overboard to cling to power for as long as possible and do their level best to thwart democracy in the meantime. But they’re not doing all that because “things” are going their way. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    But I give you props for tacitly admitting, once again, that turning the fifteenth amendment into a dead letter = things going your way. Glad you gave up pretending. Now if you’ll just drop that whole “humane” abortion-ending restriction rhetoric, we can have an honest discussion.

  26. Doug

    July 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    guess this blog is into deleting comments. I have had two responses on this and another post. Way to encourage discussion….guess having the smack laid down on you guys is disconcerting. At least Civitas does not delete the lib comments.

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