Commentary, News, Special Session

This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Three simple truths about the legislature’s failure to repeal HB2

Here are three simple truths about yesterday’s on again, off again circus at the state Legislative Building at which state lawmakers wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars and person hours and further damaged the state’s reputation in an unsuccessful special session that was supposed to have repealed North Carolina’s all-purpose LGBT discrimination law, HB2:

#1 – The notion pushed by Senate leader Phil Berger and others that Democrats and Gov.-elect Roy Cooper were somehow responsible for the failure is utterly preposterous. [Read more…]

2. Reader Questions on Failed HB2 Repeal

Since yesterday’s failure to pass a repeal of HB2 in a hastily arranged extra session of the North Carolina General Assembly, we’ve gotten a number of questions from readers via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

Wherever you stand on the underlying issues, it’s be easy to get  confused about some of what’s happened in the last week. It’s complicated, it happened quickly and a number of politically-motivated narratives about what happened and why have emerged.

Here are answers – as best we can manage – for a few of the most-asked questions we’ve seen.[Read more…]

Anti-HB2 sign3. Legislature fails to repeal HB2 in special session; Senator says ‘we’re worse off now’ than before

In true North Carolina General Assembly fashion, all the fireworks of the fifth special legislative session of the year went off in the 11th hour – or rather, the ninth hour for those keeping track of the day.

Legislators were called to Raleigh to repeal House Bill 2 after Charlotte repealed its anti-discrimination ordinance. They left without repealing anything.

There were two bills filed Wednesday in the Senate — one introduced by Democrats to repeal HB2 in full and the other introduced by Republicans to repeal HB2 with a six-month “cooling-off period” that would prevent local governments from enacting ordinances “regulating employment practices or regulating public accommodations or access to restrooms, showers, or changing facilities.” [Read more…]


4. Roy Cooper: Legislature failed North Carolina by not repealing HB2 in full

Gov. elect Roy Cooper addressed media Wednesday night after legislators failed at a special session to repeal House Bill 2.

“Today, the legislature had a chance to do the right thing for North Carolina and they failed,” he said.

Charlotte repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance on the promise that the legislature would repeal the sweeping anti-LGBTQ bill. Cooper said at the press conference that brokering the deal was a lot of work, and he knew there were enough Republican and Democrat votes to fully repeal the law. [Read more…]

***Bonus video: Cooper: GOP’s failure to abide by brokered deal doomed HB2’s full repeal

5. State Board of Education talks possible lawsuit over legislative limits to their power

Calling House Bill 17 an attempt to “diminish the board’s constitutional authority,” State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey and the members of the state’s governing public school panel retired to close session to discuss their response with attorneys Tuesday morning.

Board members indicated they would not be returning to open session to discuss the matter Tuesday , which means that the panel isn’t likely to approve any lawsuits against the legislature today. Such an action would have to be conducted in open session under open records laws.

Tuesday’s specially called meeting comes hours after Gov. Pat McCrory signed the controversial Republican-led bill, which imposes strict limits on Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper and Cobey’s board. [Read more…]

HB2, News

As NC General Assembly weighs HB2 repeal, LGBT advocates urge for statewide protections again discrimination

Update: The Charlotte City Council voted 7-2 Wednesday morning to scrap their entire nondiscrimination ordinance, setting up the General Assembly to follow thru in its special session and repeal #HB2.

Members of the state legislature return to Raleigh today for a fifth special session – this one geared at repealing House Bill 2. The state law, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory in March, bans transgender people from using the restroom of their choice  and prohibits local municipalities from extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people.

Media reports overnight indicate a deal to fully repeal HB2 may be in jeopardy as some state lawmakers now say the Charlotte City Council didn’t go far enough in a vote to repeal its non-discrimination ordinance Monday.

The Charlotte Observer’s Jim Morrill explains:

Council members did remove the part of its ordinance that dealt with public accommodations, prohibiting business such as stores and restaurants from discriminating against people based on categories such as race and religion – and also sexual orientation and gender identity. That part of the ordinance included the provision that related to transgender people being allowed to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

The council left some parts of the ordinance intact. The city’s ordinance still prohibits the city from hiring contractors who have been found to discriminate against a subcontractor because of an employee’s race or religion – as well as because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

That may be a sticking point for some conservative lawmakers during this special session.

At the same time, the ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal, who are challenging the law in federal court, want more than just HB2’s repeal:

“LGBT rights aren’t a bargaining chip. Charlotte shouldn’t have had to repeal its ordinance in exchange for H.B. 2 to be repealed,” said Simone Bell, the Southern Regional Director for Lambda Legal. “LGBT people in North Carolina still need protection from discrimination. The right action is for the North Carolina Legislature to pass a statewide comprehensive civil rights bill that includes full protections for LGBT people.”

It’s unclear whether HB2 opponents will argue for such protections during this special session, or wait until January when lawmakers are back for the long session.

The House and Senate convene this morning at 10:00 a.m.

Commentary, News, Special Session

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. The cynical, undemocratic and outrageous spectacle in Raleigh

Early in the special legislative session Wednesday called by Gov. Pat McCrory for disaster relief, House Rules Chair David Lewis responded on the House floor to a question about the rules governing the session by saying House leaders were trying to be “as transparent as they can.”

That was, simply put, a lie.

Two days before—on Monday—Lewis, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate President Phil Berger, and other Republican lawmakers signed a letter to call another special session when the disaster relief session adjourned to ram through legislation to take power away from the new Democratic governor and to remake the structure of state government on the fly.

They never bothered to tell the Democrats, the media, or the public about their scheme.[Continue reading…]

***Bonus video: Rep. Jackson: Surprise special session violates constitution

***Bonus read: NC Policy Watch reporter arrested as he attempted to cover debate in state House of Representatives

***Bonus radio commentary: Proof that power that corrupts

2. Conservative lawmakers move to curtail Cooper’s powers in additional special session

Editor’s note: After passing a disaster recovery bill on Wednesday, legislative leaders introduced a flood of new bills in a second special session. Policy Watch reporters have detailed some of the most worrisome proposals below.

General Assembly moves to dramatically limit new governor’s powers

The North Carolina General Assembly’s GOP majority moved to dramatically limit the powers of the governor’s office Wednesday as Democratic Governor-Elect Roy Cooper prepares to take office next month.

House Bill 17, filed late Wednesday during a special session called without warning to Democratic lawmakers, is the widest ranging example.

The bill would strip the incoming governor of his ability to appoint members to the boards University of North Carolina system schools. [Continue reading….]

***Bonus video: Rep. Lehman: Power grab legislation “vendetta against duly elected governor”

3. McCrory signs Senate Bill 4 in less than an hour; appoints chief of staff’s wife to Industrial Commission

Well, that was fast. Less than an hour after Senate Bill 4 made it back to the Senate after it was passed in the House, Gov. Pat McCrory signed it into law and then recommended his chief of staff’s wife as an appointment to the Industrial Commission.

The outgoing governor has not responded to multiple requests for comment about the special session, and there had been speculation about whether or not he would sign legislation that came from the surprise fourth special session of the year.

House Speaker Tim Moore made the announcement that the bill was signed. The bill will create a bipartisan Board of Elections and ethics agency, reestablish partisan elections for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, modify the appellate court process and allow McCrory to fill a vacancy on the Industrial Commission.

Yolanda Stith’s name was put forth a short time later in the Senate session. She is currently the Executive Director at North Carolina Association Long Term Care Facilities and the wife of Thomas Stith, McCrory’s chief of staff. She was previously a lobbyist. [Continue reading….]

4. Special session secrecy is outrageous regardless of what’s on the agenda

Whether it’s Hurricane relief, court-packing or something else, legislators should have provided details several days ago

The North Carolina General Assembly returns to Raleigh today for a special, lame duck legislative session. The ostensible purpose is to take actions that would supplement ongoing efforts to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Matthew and recent wildfires that swept through the drought-parched western part of the state.

As dozens of news stories and the state government rumor mill have made distressingly clear in recent days, however, it’s a virtual certainty that lawmakers will expand the agenda to include other items. Here’s Colin Campbell of Raleigh’s News & Observer in a story yesterday:

“Gov. Pat McCrory has scheduled a special session of the state legislature for 10 a.m. Tuesday, and four words in his proclamation are fueling speculation that lawmakers might go beyond disaster relief. [Continue reading…]

5. Duke denies it will build a coal ash landfill at Lee, even though draft permit allows it

The line is easy to miss. On Page 2 of a highly technical 53-page document involving Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee plant, are four words: “new lined ash landfill.”

Those four words, inserted in a draft wastewater discharge permit issued by the NC Department of Environmental Quality, could  come back to haunt the people of Goldsboro and those living downstream of the plant. There was never supposed to be a new landfill at Lee plant, which sits along the flood-prone Neuse River and within the 100-year floodplain.

Just last year, the utility concluded that it needed to excavate the 5.9 million tons of ash from the basins and recycle it in the former Colon clay mine in Lee County. “Studies noted the possible risk of flooding at the plant site,” Duke said at the time, “which makes excavation the best option for long-term safe storage of the material.” [Continue reading…]

News, Special Session

Environmentalists: Regulatory Reform bill increases flood risks, ‘boggles the mind’

House and Senate members who took steps this week to aid the flood victims of Hurricane Matthew are now pushing legislation to increase future flooding.

Environmentalists note House Bill 3 proposes changing state law to allow up to 300 feet of a stream to be damaged before restoration is required, benefiting developers.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) believes the short-sighted bill will place rural communities downstream of growing urban centers at a greater risk for flooding:

“It boggles the mind that lawmakers returned to Raleigh to fund disaster relief for flood and wildfire victims, and then quickly introduced a bill that sets the stage for even worse flooding in the future,” said Will McDow, director of habitat markets at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Raleigh, N.C., office. “This bill will give developers a free ride to destroy more streams and increase the risk of flooding in communities that are still struggling from flood damage.”

Learn more about the proposed reform bill here.