HB2, News

AP reports $3.76 billion in lost business by 2028 over HB2; Cooper responds

The Associated Press unveiled a hefty price tag Monday for how much House Bill 2 will cost North Carolina — $3.76 billion in lost business by the end of 2028.

The AP’s analysis was compiled through interviews and public records requests and “represents the largest reckoning yet of how much the law, passed one year ago, could cost the state.”

“Still, AP’s tally is likely an underestimation of the law’s true costs. The count includes only data obtained from businesses and state or local officials regarding projects that canceled or relocated because of HB2. A business project was counted only if AP determined through public records or interviews that HB2 was why it pulled out.”

You can see a full breakdown of the AP’s numbers here.

Republicans have assured North Carolinians and others that the sweeping anti-LGBTQ legislation isn’t hurting the economy and said they’re willing to pay the price if it keeps sexual predators from going into women’s restrooms and assaulting them.

Opponents say that claim is bogus and that there should be a law in place to protect LGBTQ community members.

Efforts to repeal the law have failed. Efforts to compromise on repealing the law have failed.

Gov. Roy Cooper, who tried to broker a deal in December to get the law repealed, responded Monday to the AP’s report.

“We now know that, based on conservative estimates, North Carolina’s economy stands to lose nearly $4 billion because of House Bill 2,” he said. “That means fewer jobs and less money in the pockets of middle class families. We need to fix this now. I remain ready to support a compromise that works to end discrimination and brings jobs and sports back to North Carolina.”

Republican leaders have yet to respond to the report on social media. Lt. Dan Forest declined to be interviewed by the AP, according to its report. He is one of the law’s strongest supporters and has “accused news organizations of creating a false picture of economic upheaval.”

The ACLU of NC legal director Chris Brook recently spoke with Chris Fritzsimon about the discriminatory HB2 and what the last year has been like. Brook is involved in the ACLU’s litigation over HB2.

You can listen to his full radio interview on News and Views here.

News

Six things to have on your radar this week

Equal Rights Amendment – Legislators and members of organizations supporting women’s rights will gather at the Legislative Building in Raleigh this afternoon to call upon the leadership of the House and Senate to prioritize action on bills (HB 102 and SB 85) that would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution. The action comes on the heels of recent action by the Nevada legislature to ratify the Amendment. Activities will commence with a 3:00 pm press conference led by Rep. Carla Cunningham.

Vote to allow firearms in churches and schools – Current N.C. law generally prohibits gun owners from bringing guns onto school campuses, but it does not bar guns from places of worship — so long as the church, synagogue or mosque does not bar them. A proposed bill would make clear that gun owners can bring their firearms onto the property where schools and churches co-exist as long as it’s outside the operating hours of the school and the place of worship doesn’t say affirmatively bar them. Gun violence advocates have concerns about the proposal and would much prefer that the presumption be that guns are banned in places of worship unless they are affirmatively welcomed. The Bill (House Bill 174) is scheduled for a vote on the House floor on this evening.

Teaching Fellows 2.0 – On Tuesday, the House Education Committee for Universities will meet in Room 1228 of the Legislative Building to take up legislation by Rep. Craig Horn to revive the Teaching Fellows Program – a program abolished by Republicans after they took control of the General Assembly earlier in the decade.

Governor Roy Cooper is also proposing in his budget a plan to increase teacher recruitment:

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Role in the Transition to a Low-Carbon
Acting Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Chery LaFleur comes to Duke’s campus on Tuesday.  She’ll be discussing the electricity sector’s period of rapid change and FERC role in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The talk will take place in Duke University’s Ahmadieh Family Grand Hall (Gross Hall room 330) from 3:30-4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Look for questions from the audience about the impact of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

LaFleur’s talk is sponsored by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the Duke University Energy Initiative, and the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Rural Education Advocacy – Retired Congresswoman Eva Clayton, policymakers, education and business leaders and others will spearhead Rural Education Advocacy Day in Raleigh on Wednesday. The event is designed to highlight the fact that while North Carolina has the second largest rural population in America, the unique needs of rural school districts are often forgotten. More than two-thirds of North Carolina’s traditional public school districts are rural and nearly 40 percent of students in traditional public schools are educated in a rural district. The program will run from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm at the Department of Public Instruction’s Education Building Auditorium.

Community College Day at the General Assembly – The North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents will kick off “Community College Day at the General Assembly” on Wednesday. The event will begin at 10 a.m. and include interactive simulations and demonstrations of feature community college programs in the 1000 and 1300 court of the NC Legislative Building. A press conference in the Legislative Building press Room will take place at 10:00 am.

Environment

DEQ Secretary Michael Regan signals he will fight for environmental justice

DEQ Secretary Michael Regan prepares for his speech at an environmental justice conference in Mebane. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

While caterers released the aroma of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans from a fleet of steaming pans, Michael Regan sat a table designated “reserved,”  and reviewed his lunchtime speech. “The truth is, we’ve got work to do,” read part of the first page. “We have a special obligation to the underserved and underrepresented.”

Regan, who has been secretary of the NC Department of Environmental Quality for just two months, had brought along at least a dozen of his staff, who joined officials from the EPA, the West End Revitalization Association and other environmental justice advocates, to the Mebane Community Center. Here, they would spend two days hashing out issues of environmental justice at  the North Carolina Community Solutions Workshop.

For the past four years, environmental justice groups have been largely excluded from meeting with top DEQ officials. The NC Pork Council, the real estate lobby, the frackers-in-waiting: They all had a seat at the table. While polluting industries like Duke Energy were dining with former DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart at the governor’s mansion, environmental groups were essentially told to talk to the hand.

.@Michael_S_Regan: We have a special obligation to the underserved and underrepresented. Click To Tweet

So on this Friday, the air vibrated with pent-up frustration and high expectations. Regan, who spent years at the EPA and several more with the centrist advocacy group, the Environmental Defense Fund, is a charismatic speaker. Approachable and earnest, he generally says the right things in the right way.

“My job is to protect the human health and the environment,” Regan told the crowd. This remark alone signaled a break from the previous administration’s “customer-friendly”  (read: “industry-friendly)” approach. “The whole reason regulations are in place is so good guys can do what they need to do and to keep the bad guys from messing it up for everyone else.”

Yet veterans of the movement have had their hopes raised and dashed before. Yes, Regan has toured the state, meeting with communities that have suffered from the ravages of coal ash pollution and hog waste. “We are looking forward to what we can do with you,” Naeema Muhammad, co-director of the NC Environmental Justice Network, told Regan. Muhammad led a dozen activists to the US Capitol last fall to address congressional representatives about the rampant contamination from hog waste lagoons in eastern North Carolina. She has already met privately with Regan about DEQ’s history of dismissing the community’s concerns. “Life has been difficult, and we hope we can make a difference in North Carolina.”

But when Elizabeth Haddix, attorney with the UNC Center for Civil Rights, publicly asked Regan how he would rein in the industrial poultry industry — which essentially gets a regulatory pass  — he gave a non-answer. One can’t blame advocates for being head-shy.

Read more

Courts & the Law, News

Rep. Joe John talks judicial, legislative experience in midst of partisan battles over the courts

Rep. Joe John (D-Wake) holds a picture from his office that was taken during his time as a judge. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

When House lawmakers passed a bill to reduce the Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12, Rep. Joe John was crushed.

The Wake County Democrat spent a quarter of a century in the courts; he’s worked as a legal-aid attorney, a prosecutor and has served on the bench as a District Court judge, Superior Court judge and Court of Appeals judge.

“I took that one pretty hard,” he said of House Bill 239. “I was down; I was depressed.”

He spoke out on the House floor before a vote was taken along party lines. He pointed out that the appellate court’s workload didn’t justify the reduction of judges. He used his experience to try to give insight to legislators who might not understand the weight of their decisions.

“It is possible that folks who had never been judges — and I am the only former judge in the House of Representatives and the Senate, as far as I gather — it’s possible they don’t appreciate and understand the judicial branch is not and has never intended to be a political branch of government,” John said.

The General Assembly has been taking aim at the judiciary since former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory conceded the election in December. There have been a number of bills passed that change the structure of the courts.

The bills, altogether, deal a blow to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper — lawmakers appear to want to strip him of appointment power, and subsequently keep the opposition from becoming the majority.

Cooper has said politics have no place in the courts and John agrees.

The first-term lawmaker won’t go as far as saying he’s gotten used to his peers voting for judiciary bills, but by the time they took a vote last week to override Cooper’s veto of a bill that makes judicial elections partisan again, he wasn’t surprised.

Still, John spoke up before the vote.

“I say to you it is no exaggeration to characterize this issue as not just a vote, but a vote upon which the future of an independent judiciary in North Carolina depends,” he said.

His colleagues didn’t listen. Read more

Commentary, News

This week’s top five on NC Policy Watch

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch 

1. School choice supporters tout questionable data on charters

Charter schools in North Carolina are becomingly increasingly white and affluent. Those are two of the overriding conclusions derived from recent analysis of the state’s charter population by a variety of stakeholders.

But a new set of numbers circulating among prominent school choice advocates in Raleigh indicates the opposite, much to the consternation of public school backers in North Carolina. [Read more…]

2. One year in, LGBT lawmakers address HB2

Thursday marks one year since HB2 was signed into law, setting off a firestorm of controversy that led to statewide boycotts, mass protests and contributed to the downfall of the governor who supported it….

There are only two out LGBT members of the North Carolina General Assembly. N.C. Representatives Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford) and Debra Butler (D-Brunswick) have experienced the battle over HB2 very differently than their peers. While other lawmakers discuss LGBT rights in the abstract, these conversations have been visceral and personal for those actually impacted by the law. [Read more…]

3. Enough is enough: tax-cutting frenzy threatens North Carolina’s future

Two weeks ago a group of state Senate leaders unveiled a plan to raise principal pay in North Carolina and raise funds for school construction in rural areas. Both are good ideas.

Many small and poor counties don’t have the tax base to afford to build new schools and North Carolina ranks 50th in principal compensation.

But the GOP Senators weren’t proposing funding their plan from the state’s General Fund budget. Instead, they want to increase lottery advertising to raise new revenue from low-income communities to pay principals more and build new schools. [Read more…]

4. Roy Cooper’s lonely and courageous battle: It’s a difficult and sometimes nasty job, but somebody’s gotta’ do it

One of the hard and often underreported truths of American politics is the role that both luck and timing play in the perceived successes and/or failures of elected officials – particularly chief executives. Enter office at just the right moment – when, say, the economy is humming along and one’s political party enjoys a large majority – and elected office can be a lot of fun. Chances are you’ll have strong approval ratings, considerable clout in legislative decision making, lots of invitations to speak to large and friendly audiences and an opportunity to leave a significant imprint on your city, state or nation. [Read more…]

5. New data document the many perils of Trumpcare for North Carolina

This Thursday, March 23, marks the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) — the landmark federal law that secured and guaranteed health insurance for millions of previously uninsured Americans and saved tens of thousands of lives. Unfortunately however, Thursday is also the day on which leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives currently plan to vote on a “replacement” for the ACA that they have dubbed the “American Health Care Act” and that many outside of Washington have come to refer to as “Trumpcare.”

If actually enacted into law, Trumpcare would have disastrous implication for millions of vulnerable people and the economy as a whole – especially in light of the findings released last week by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. [Read more…]