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 Charlotte shouldn’t have had to repeal its ordinance in exchange for H.B. 2 to be repealed,” said Simone Bell, the Southern Regional Director for Lambda Legal.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.

Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

mccrory-concedes-his-defeat1. McCrory the mayor who never figured out how to be governor

Governor Pat McCrory finally conceded the 2016 election to Attorney General Roy Cooper on Monday, December 5 but he actually lost the race on March 23 when he signed the sweeping anti-LGBT law HB2.

That not only created a firestorm of protest and boycotts and damaged the state’s reputation around the world, it confirmed what voters had come to realize about him —that he was either unable or unwilling to stand up to the radical agenda of his own party in the General Assembly.

News accounts and recently released emails show that privately McCrory was both worried that the discriminatory law went too far and was unaware of everything it did until days after he signed it, a perfect microcosm of what eventually led to his defeat, his second unsuccessful run for governor in three tries. [Continue reading...]

***Bonus read: Gov. McCrory concedes election in video message

*** Bonus video: Roy Cooper celebrate victory – a month after Election Day

mc-112A2. McCrory sidesteps goodbyes, presses for sale of “crappy” historic buildings

Gov. Pat McCrory was jovial at his last Council of State meeting this morning, even cracking a few jokes, but he was also blunt and made no concessions about his feelings on developing dilapidated state buildings.

What he didn’t make clear at the meeting were his feelings about conceding the election and leaving his job after one term. Many of his colleagues at the table made small speeches at the conclusion of the meeting, thanking the Governor for his hard work and letting him know that he would be missed.

He smiled back at them, shaking his head a few times and then adjourned the meeting and quickly moved around the crowd, shaking just a few hands, before disappearing without taking any questions.

Most of the meeting was spent discussing the potential sale of three properties: a vacant Charlotte Correctional Facility; the Personnel Training Center across from William Peace University in Raleigh; and three buildings on Caswell Square on North Dawson Street.[Continue reading…]

cooper-education3. Public school advocates welcome “champion” in the Executive Mansion, offer advice on the challenges Cooper will face

The N.C. Association of Educators was one of the first major political advocacy groups to side with Roy Cooper.

So when news spread over social media Monday that Gov. Pat McCrory had at last conceded a bitterly contested gubernatorial race to Cooper—three weeks and six days after Election Day—it’s fitting that the 70,000-member political arm of teachers across North Carolina was one of the first to trumpet the news.

“North Carolina educators are Ready for Roy,” NCAE President Mark Jewell said in a statement, harkening to one of the state attorney general’s well-trod campaign slogans.

“Finally,” Jewell says he thought to himself when he watched McCrory’s taped concession, in which the Republican candidate urged North Carolinians to support Gov.-elect Cooper’s transition, which had been underway for days before McCrory acknowledged his defeat.[Continue reading…]

chandler-concrete-durham4. If you smell something, say something
Where state regulators fail, citizens step in to monitor the air

The view from the porch of a 1920s bungalow on East Pettigrew Street in Old East Durham is not of trees. Not of a grocery, a restaurant or a beauty salon. Not even another house or an empty lot. Instead, you can sit on your step with a cup of coffee and gaze upon the gates of a drywall supplier and the silos of a concrete plant.

This historic African-American neighborhood is hemmed between the NC 147, where tens of thousands of cars travel daily, and the railroad tracks, where about a dozen diesel trains each day leave contrails of black exhaust. Along both sides of this two-mile stretch lie a chemical plant and the Boys & Girls Club, the East Durham Children’s Initiative and four concrete plants.

These concrete plants are among roughly 400 facilities statewide that are no longer required to have a state air permit to operate. New rules passed this year by the state Environmental Management Commission exempt certain polluters, deemed low-level by the NC Department of Environmental Quality, from securing a permit. Based on their emissions levels, more than 1,110 facilities qualified to apply for what is called a “rescission.” As of Nov. 14, DEQ has rescinded nearly 400 permits. The agency has denied just two. [Continue reading…]

workers-adobestock-4505.Trump’s America is already here in at least one important area
New Duke study helps confirm that conservative policies have damaged American racial equality and economic wellbeing

Here’s some news for the many conservative supporters of Donald Trump who yearn to “make America great again” – you know, like it supposedly was in the 1950’s: In a very important and troubling way, we’re already there.

Confirmation of this fact comes from a pair of Duke University researchers who recently released a powerful and damning new study. The study, “Divergent Paths: Structural Change, Economic Rank, and the Evolution of Black-White Earnings Differences, 1940-2014,” makes painfully clear what happens when we turn away from public policies that promote equality and real opportunity for everyone. Researchers Patrick Bayer and Kerwin Kofi Charles found that the wage gap between black and white Americans has been growing steadily in recent decades and is now, rather remarkably, all the way back at the level it was at the midpoint of the last century. This is from the news release that accompanied the study:  [Continue reading…]