Commentary

Weekend editorials: Criticism of HB2 referendum idea piles up

Two more of the state’s major newspapers weighed in against the idea floated by some state lawmakers last week of putting HB2 on the November ballot. The editorials in the Wilmington Star-News and the Greensboro News & Record come on top of another one that blasted the plan in last Thursday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer.

Interestingly, the News & Record notes that if lawmakers are really going to go down this road, they need to put all parts of the law on the ballot:

“But in this case, a referendum on HB 2 might include questions like these:

  • Should cities be allowed to require employers to pay a minimum wage higher than the state level?
  • Should cities be allowed to enact ordinances that protect residents and visitors from all forms of discrimination?
  • Should North Carolina residents be allowed to file discrimination claims in state courts?

If voters affirmed, those measures would make worthy additions to the state constitution.

Legislators probably don’t have in mind putting those parts of HB 2 to a vote of the people.

The only part of the new law they might want to test in a vote is the bathroom portion: Should public agencies require people to use bathrooms that correspond to their biological sex as defined by what’s stated on their birth certificates?”

The editorial summed up this way:

“These complex issues were dealt with in the crudest, most thoughtless manner possible by our legislature and governor. And now, in a transparent attempt to deflect political pressure, some of the same legislators think it’s a good idea to ask the voters to affirm their crude and thoughtless action.”

After explaining why referenda are, as a general matter, a lousy way to make state laws, the Star-News concluded with this succinct observation:

“The law is causing lost businesses, lost conventions, lost tourist dollars and is damaging the state’s reputation. But mainly, it’s a bad law. It needs to go now.

Our Honorable legislators need to stop fooling around. They officially convene Monday. Get busy.”

And here’s how the N&O put it:

“HB2 is an utterly preposterous intervention by big government, from a crowd on Jones Street that claims to be against big government. But now, facing possible political consequences from people back home who are not buying their demagoguery, some want to do that whole “vote of the people” dodge rather than do the jobs for which they were elected. They need instead to bring the issue up on the floors of the state House and Senate, have a debate and vote on it….

But putting it to a vote on the November ballot? That’s a terrible idea, and it wouldn’t necessarily demonstrate the true will of the people anyway. The passage of such a referendum or its defeat would depend entirely on the wording of the question. And a vote wouldn’t be the deciding factor.”

The bottom line: No matter how many creative dodges the authors of HB2 come up with to distract and divide, the imperative of full and immediate repeal just grows stronger.

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