HB2, News

HB2 appeal seeking transgender protections voluntarily dismissed; litigation in lower court over law still pending

All parties to litigation over House Bill 2 have agreed to dismiss an appeal that sought relief for transgender people from bathroom provisions of the law.

The appeal was filed after a court granted a preliminary injunction in Carcaño v. McCrory preventing the North Carolina university system from enforcing HB2 against the three transgender plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The appeal sought to extend that injunction to prevent discrimination against all transgender people in the state.

However, since HB 142 repealed the bathroom language in HB2, parties to the appeal filed a voluntary motion to dismiss it.

“Among its other provisions, HB2 directed North Carolina public agencies to ‘require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex.’ N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143- 760(b) (2016), repealed by S.L. 2017-4. ‘Biological sex’ was defined as the ‘physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.’ N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143-760(a)(1) (2016), repealed by S.L. 2017-4.

On March 30, 2017, while this appeal was pending, Governor Cooper signed into law the Act to Reset S.L. 2016-3, which expressly repealed HB2. See S.L. 2017-4 (Exhibit A). As a result, there is no state law barring the use of multiple occupancy bathroom facilities in accordance with gender identity.”

It should be noted that the dismissal does not signify the end of litigation over HB2. A lawsuit over the sweeping anti-LGBT law remains pending in District Court, and lawyers from the ACLU and Lambda Legal has stated it will continue to fight for transgender protections. The organization also plans to seek an amendment to the lawsuit to include the new HB142.

HB142 bars local governments from enacting future anti-discrimination protections until 2020 and states that the General Assembly will dictate future bathroom policies.

“State agencies, boards, offices, departments, institutions, branches of government, including The University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Community College System, and political subdivisions of the State, including local boards of education, are preempted from regulation of access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities, except in accordance with an act of the General Assembly,” the bill states.

It’s unclear what the new law currently means for transgender residents access to bathrooms. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger did not return emails seeking comment about translation of the new law.

A footnote in the dismissal document states that “Intervenors-Appellees Tim Moore and Phil Berger join in this stipulation only to the extent of stipulating and agreeing that (1) the appeal should be voluntarily dismissed under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 42(b) and Local Rule 42; (2) the parties should bear their own costs; and (3) there is therefore no need for the supplemental briefing requested by the Court in its order of April 10, 2017, which they do not intend to submit unless otherwise instructed.”

The dismissal will not prejudice the HB2 lawsuit that is still pending.

Commentary, News

Cooper vetoes latest GOP power grab bills

Governor Roy Cooper has vetoed two more of the embarrassingly partisan and ill-conceived government reorganization bills sent to him by the Republican General Assembly. This time the bills in question are Senate Bill 68 (the proposal to create the laughably misnamed “Bipartisan Board Elections and Ethics Enforcement”) and House Bill 239 (the proposal to shrink the state Court of Appeals just in time to deny Cooper the right to replace three soon-to-retire Republican judges). As Cooper’s understated veto messages make clear, the bills ought to be called the “Hyperpartisan Republican Elections and Ethics Gridlock Act” and the Let’s Guarantee GOP Control of the Courts Act.”

This is from Cooper’s veto message:

House Bill 239:

“Having three fewer judges will increase the court’s workload and delay timely appeals. Just as bad is the real motivation of Republican legislators, which is to stack the court with judges of their own party. Earlier this session, Republican legislators already injected partisan politics into our courts by slapping political party labels on all judicial races.

A bipartisan group of former state Supreme Court chief justices said that this bill would “seriously harm our judicial system” and “hurt the people of our state.” In addition, I believe this legislation is unconstitutional, and we should all be concerned about unwarranted attacks on the judiciary.”

Senate Bill 68:

This is the same unconstitutional legislation in another package, and it’s an attempt to make it harder for people to register and vote.

Changing the State Board of Elections to a 4-4 partisan split and local county board of elections to a 2-2 partisan split will result in deadlocked votes.

It’s a scheme to ensure that Republicans control state and county boards of elections in Presidential election years when the most races are on the ballot.

The North Carolina Republican Party has a track record of trying to influence Board of Elections members to make it harder for people to vote and have fair elections. Under this bill, that same party controls the pool of appointments of half the state and county elections boards.

I urge legislators to set the right priorities for North Carolina and stop electoral manipulation, which, like gerrymandering, is what’s wrong with politics.”

Let’s hope lawmakers come to their senses and sustain the vetoes.

News, Policing

Greensboro columnist Susan Ladd on police brutality

Greensboro is one of many North Carolina cities that has, for years, been struggling with police/community relationships, cases of police brutality and – more recently – public access to records like police body camera footage.

This week Susan Ladd, columnist for Greensboro’s News & Record, takes a look at the case of Jose Charles – the young man of whose violent encounter with Greensboro police a member of the city’s Police Community Review Board says, “If we can’t see this one as wrong, we can’t see anything as wrong.”

From the column:

This week Lindy Garnette said what she had been thinking since she first reviewed the case of alleged police brutality in the arrest of Jose Charles:

“If we can’t see this one as wrong, we can’t see anything as wrong,” said Garnette, chief executive officer of the YWCA and a member of the Police Community Review Board. “If this case is swept under the rug, we might as well pack up, go home and call it a day.”

Charles, then 15, got beaten up by a group of other teenagers at last year’s Fun Fourth celebration in downtown Greensboro. He was using his shirt to wipe blood off his face when he was approached by a Greensboro police officer.

 After an oral exchange, Charles said, the officer threw him down, choked him and arrested him for malicious assault after he coughed up blood, which struck another officer in the face. Charles also was charged with disorderly conduct, simple affray and resisting arrest.

His mother, Tamara Figueroa, returned from a trip to the restroom that night to find her son on the pavement, bleeding from the head, with the officer’s hands around his neck. He needed eight stitches to close a wound over his eye.

Take the time to read the whole column.

Environment, News

North Carolina scientists speak up, rally for research on Earth Day

To coincide with Earth Day there will be marches in over 300 cities Saturday to celebrate science and the role it plays in our everyday lives.

With evidence-based science under attack in  Washington and some state legislatures, renown scientist Sandra Steingraber is talking about the need for her colleagues to be more vocal.

Photo credit: www.laurakozlowski.com

Steingraber, an American biologist, author, and cancer survivor, has been heralded by the Sierra Club as “the new Rachel Carson.”

She recently joined Policy Watch to discuss science in the current political climate and the link between human rights and the environment.

Click below to hear our podcast.

Rallies will be held Saturday in cities across North Carolina including:

March For Science – Raleigh

March For Science – Charlotte

March For Science – Greensboro

March For Science Wilmington

March For Science in Asheville

Commentary, Trump Administration

Editorial: Save program for undocumented kids

The Greensboro News & Record has a fine editorial this morning that’s worth a few minutes of your time. “Save DACA” highlights the troubling signs that the Trump administration is chipping away at the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — the Obama- era immigration policy that allows kids brought to the U.S. as young children to stay, even if they’re technically undocumented, so long as they stay out of trouble.

After relating the story of a DACA youth who was almost wrongfully deported (the Trump administration said it used its “discretion” to let her stay) and pointing out that the program is still in effect, the editorial concluded this way:

In fact, the agency is following a presidential directive that is still in force. President Barack Obama’s executive order establishing the DACA program was one of his finest actions, making so much sense that Trump hasn’t touched it. At least not officially.

Yet, there are worrisome signs. Asked about the Montes case on Fox News Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “The policy is that if people are here unlawfully, they’re subject to being deported.” His statement didn’t acknowledge that DACA status means individuals are here lawfully and should not be subject to deportation.

If Trump overturns DACA, he should be prepared to deport not only college students but members of our armed forces or spouses of military men and women. Also “subject to being deported” will be bright young people who hold professional jobs or are otherwise gainfully employed, paying taxes, starting families and contributing to their communities.

Even people who view all illegal immigrants as “criminals” must recognize that small children aren’t committing crimes when their parents carry them across a border. The children didn’t choose to enter the United States, and by the time they’ve grown up, they don’t know any home other than this country. Yanking them from their American lives and sending them to a foreign “homeland” is cruel to them and bad for the U.S.

ICE has plenty of high-priority illegal immigrants it should target for arrest and deportation. It’s not a matter of “discretion” to leave DACA participants alone. It’s good policy and a presidential order.

Click here to read the entire editorial.