Commentary

Senator cites secret conference calls about HB2 to defend rushed special session

RandlemanGiven the national firestorm about the sweeping anti-LGBT law HB2 signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, many local papers are checking in with their legislators who voted for it to see if they are having second thoughts.

The folks representing Wilkes County don’t seem to regret their support of the law that has cost the state thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in tourism revenue.

But Senator Shirley Randleman had an revealing answer in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot to questions about the way HB2 was passed, in a rushed one-day special session with little debate and where many lawmakers and the public only saw the proposal right before it was considered by a House committee.

“I would have to say that I stand by my vote (in support) of this bill (HB2)…. People keep saying that we acted hastily in enacting it. It was worked on for weeks” in conference calls, she said.

Apparently Senator Randleman believes that a few secret conference calls between Republican Senators is plenty of discussion. No need for the public to weigh in or for legislators to hear testimony from officials in cities that have ordinances similar to the one that Charlotte enacted that she voted to overturn.

Not to mention all the other non-bathroom parts of the bill, the statewide nondiscrimination standard that excludes LGBT people and the provision that bans workers fired because of their race or religion from suing in state court.

HB2 is damaging North Carolina more every day. It’s too bad that Senator Randleman can’t acknowledge that reality and that she seems not to understand that legislating by private conference call is not how our democracy is supposed to function.

Commentary

Leading HB2 supporter says banning discrimination against LGBT people “undermines freedom”

The head of the misnamed NC Values Coalition confirmed again this week what we already knew about the real motivation behind HB2.

Coalition head Tammy Fitzgerald said in an absurd column run on the Daily Signal, part of the Heritage Foundation, that any effort to add discrimination protections for LGBT people to state law was an effort to “undermine freedom and empower the state to punish and silence its citizens for peacefully living and working according to their core convictions.”

Got that? Making it illegal to fire or deny services to a gay person simply because they are gay somehow undermines freedom and punishes and silences citizens.

Wonder if Fitzgerald thinks that making it illegal to refuse to serve African-Americans at a restaurant undermines freedom too?  Maybe it’s time for signs in windows saying “Only Straights Served Here.”

Her offensive claims are the latest reminder that HB2 is not really about bathrooms, as offensive as those provisions in the law are. It is about denying basic civil rights to LGBT people in North Carolina. Period.

That’s why the nondiscrimination standard in HB2 includes protections for “biological sex,” not simply sex like the federal law. The U.S. Equal Employment  Commission and federal courts have interpreted sex in the federal law as providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Fitzgerald and other supporters of HB2 couldn’t have that, so they added biological sex to HB2. They went of their way to discriminate.

Sorry, HB2 has nothing to do with freedom. It is about discrimination and bigotry, pure and simple.

Commentary

Somebody please ask Sen. Berger how Obama is “grabbing” guns

Sen. Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

It’s disappointing but not surprising that political opponents of President Obama reacted to his announcement yesterday that he wants to expand background checks to cover more gun purchases with pathetic and misleading soundbites.

Obama’s plan is a common sense idea that everyone from the NRA to House Speaker Paul Ryan used to support, not to mention 85 percent of Americans and 79 percent of Republicans.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s response was typical, calling Obama’s executive action on guns “an unconstitutional gun-grab.”

Gun grab seemed to be the soundbite the Right decided would be the most effective and dishonest way to describe a proposal that takes nobody’s gun away from them but merely makes it harder for some people to buy a gun who should not be able to own one.

The only thing more frustrating was that Berger and NC GOP Chief Dallas Woodhouse, who also employed the gun grab phrase, were not asked by any reporters what they meant. How exactly does making more people undergo background checks when they buy a weapon grab anybody’s gun?

It doesn’t make sense. But that’s the point of course. Anything Obama proposes is horrible in the Berger/Woodhouse world view and any proposal to enforce federal gun regulations must be demogogued to stoke the Republican base.

Too bad most of the media outlets let them get away with it.

News

Mental health funding in steady decline in North Carolina

A new report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness finds that North Carolina is one of only 12 states that cut funding for mental health this year.  The map below from the report tells the story and the cuts are becoming a habit in the current era when tax cuts for corporations take precedence over everything else.

Fewer than half of states increased their mental health budgets this year. The rest reduced funding, including three states that have been in steady decline over three years—Alaska, North Carolina and Wyoming.

state-mental-health-budgets-fy-2015-2016

Commentary

GOP leaders strain to explain flip-flop on pork barrel spending

Not too many years ago Republicans railed against provisions in the state budget put together by the Democratic majority that benefited specific parts of state, calling them pork barrel spending. They charged it was a waste of taxpayer money and an abuse of power by legislative leaders.

But it turns out pork barrel spending is fine and not an inappropriate use of taxpayer money when Republicans do it.

Saturday and Sunday stories in the News & Observer explain in great detail how legislative leaders steered money to their districts in the recently adopted budget.

The long list of discretionary spending ranges from state funding for a baseball tournament in Shelby in Cleveland County that House Speaker Tim Moore represents to museum funding in Onslow County, the home of Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown.

The testy responses to questions about the hypocrisy were the most telling. House budget chair Nelson Dollar defended giving certain towns state money for downtown revitalization without any process by saying it takes too long to have criteria.

Dollar said House leaders decided not to allocate the downtown money through a competitive grant process.

“The advantage is that the money will get to those communities much faster,” he said. “Sometimes the grant process takes a considerable amount of time.”

In other words, legislators will decide who gets the money. It’s probably just a coincidence that only one of the 13 towns receiving the funding is represented by a Democrat.

Meanwhile the spokesperson for Speaker Moore has had it with questions about the baseball tournament and other pork barrel projects in the Speaker’s district.

Moore declined an interview request for this story. “I’m not sure what is new on this topic,” spokeswoman Mollie Young said, referring to an earlier News & Observer story about Moore’s earmarks in the original House budget. “The speaker will not be commenting on this again.”

In other words, leave them alone. Sure they complained that pork barrel spending was wrong when they were in the minority. But that was then and this is now, or in other words, they were against pork barrel spending before they were for it.