Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Replacement of North Carolina HB2 About More than Bathrooms

Focus on 2018 - Win the War, Not the Battle

By Mildred Robertson
I was recently asked my thoughts on HB142, which replaces the North Carolina controversial HB2 “bathroom bill.” It is a complicated issue. Regardless of your initial position on HB2, HB142 represents both wins and losses for either side.

First, HB142 is a continuation of NC Republican high jinx, as they exert total control over the governance of our state by manipulating the process. They prevented challengers from adding any changes or amendments to HB142, a completely different bill, by gutting it and inserting the HB2 restrictions into it, Therefore, Governor Roy Cooper and other opponents of HB2 were left with a take-it, or leave-it scenario, because Democrats do not have the votes to repeal HB2 or to sustain a veto by Cooper.

The only reason the Republicans even contemplated this new bill was to placate businesses refusing to practice in the state because of the discriminatory nature of HB2. They attempted to alter the bill just enough to make it more palatable to businesses such as the organizers of the NCAA tournament who gave the state an ultimatum.

Change the bill or lose the tournament through 2022.

It remains to be seen whether HB142 will accomplish that goal. The NCAA is to make its decision in early April.  I believe that those who oppose HB2 felt that the negative impact the “bathroom bill” had on North Carolina’s business prospects was their best leverage against the Republican legislature. By softening the impact of the bill through HB142, Cooper and the Dems have allowed their best weapon to become watered down.

Republicans are clearly being hypocritical, as they tout less power in Raleigh and more in local government. Meanwhile, they pass a bill that wrests control of the regulation of multiple occupancy bathrooms, showers or changing facilities from local government and school officials and gives that power to the state.

Another point of contention is the ability of local governments to enact nondiscrimination ordinances. House Bill 2 restricted those abilities. Likewise, HB142 blocks local governments’ ability to pass new nondiscrimination protections for workplaces, hotels and restaurants until December 2020. LGBT groups feel the new bill still denies them protection from discrimination.

I do not know whether Governor Cooper and the Democrats who supported him did the right thing. It is a decision I would not have wanted to make. Governing is not about winning everything you wish for all the time. Sometimes compromise is necessary for either side to get any sort of victory.

If the Republicans are successful in wooing back businesses that have abandoned the state by the droves with this watered down version of HB2, there is no reason for them to contemplate changing the remaining discriminatory features contained in HB142. If their efforts are unsuccessful, it is possible that the legislature will revisit this issue. But that means the ball remains in the Republican court.

However, that’s where it has been and will remain until the people of North Carolina determine that the current makeup of the legislature is counterproductive to needs of the citizens of this state and change our leadership. I do not know if that is possible with the gerrymandered voting districts that the state will have to live with, at least through 2018.

All the more reason for those who oppose North Carolina’s current direction to mobilize. We do not need to allow this debate to dampen the seeming mobilization of opposition forces growing in our state. We can attempt to re-litigate HB2, or we can focus on the real battle in 2018. That’s when we can engender real, meaningful, lasting change across the board.