North Carolina – State of Confusion

I have lived in North Carolina for going on 36 years, mostly in Charlotte, but with a four year stint in Winston-Salem. I moved here after college in Atlanta, which I also love, but was born and raised in Florida. Florida has basically two seasons and is flat, so being in North Carolina with its four seasons, trees, mountains and coast is more my taste. It has been a great place to do business, but the recent years have made things more challenging than they need to be.

Our state used to take pride in being the most progressive state in the south. We were open for business, research and education. About ten years ago, for example, we were hailed by passing a law that obligated our electric utilities to phase-in the use of renewable energy over the next fifteen years. As a result, our state is the fourth most prevalent state in solar energy and is ripe for more wind energy expansion. This was a prescient eye toward the future.

Yet, since the 2010 elections, our state has been governed by a very conservative set of leaders who seized the opportunity of the President’s first mid-term election and a census year to gain a majority and gerrymander the voting districts to favor their candidates going forward. It should be noted the Democrats did this in previous census years, but that does not make it any more correct – it was wrong then and is wrong now. It should be noted, the gerrymandering was overturned as unconstitutionally drawn in two districts two months ago, and all districts have been redrawn.

The dilemma is our legislature has proceeded to pass a series of laws and avoid taking positive actions that have made our state much less progressive and the subject of lampooning by national businesses and media. Some of the actions are still in court, while others have been ruled unconstitutional like the above gerrymandering ruling.

A law which made it harder for women to get access to abortion facilities was overturned as unconstitutional. A law that said the tenure of existing teachers could be overlooked was overturned. A law that said the Jim Crow like and most restrictive Voter ID Law in the country remains in court. It should be noted that the legislature tried to preempt the most recent court case, by changing some of the features last summer, knowing they did a bridge too far.

The latest foray is HB2 which unfairly discriminates against the LGBT community in response to a City of Charlotte ordinance passed last month to permit transgender people to legally use the bathroom they identify with. This law exists in about 200 cities around the country. Using fear tactics that unjustly paint transgender people as sexual predators (without data I might add), the state General Assembly swept in for a special session and passed a law to say the person must use the bathroom based on gender at birth. Plus, it went beyond this restricting formal rights for all LGBT people and preventing other cities to pass similar ordinances or minimum wage laws.

To make it worse, the Governor signed this into law the same day without reading it. I say this because at a news conference to tell others the criticism of the law is overblown, he was asked about a couple of features of the law, which he was unaware were therein. The news conference was hastily called as the backlash has been huge. So, far 120 major companies such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Google, Lowe’s, Apple, Facebook, etc. have signed a letter asking for the repeal. Thus far, a specific filming project for a TV comedy has been canceled and one convention reservation has been terminated. Others are reconsidering events, plans and projects in the state.

And, that is just to date. My guess is the mountain of companies will build and pressure the General Assembly to act. Plus, a law suit has been filed against the unconstitutionality of the law. While stranger things have happened, I cannot see this law suit failing as the law is discriminatory. Plus, it is ineffective. First, someone born as a man or woman that looks like, acts like and/ or biologically is the opposite sex, then to force them to use a bathroom opposite their countenance will heighten risk and incidents. Second, setting the legal issue aside, there is very little chance for the law to be policed. So, in practice, the issue is moot. If Aunt Edna is now Uncle Ed, there is very little chance he will be stopped from going to the men’s bathroom.

My state is in confusion. We have tarnished our image and that will hurt both our economy and reputation. And, for what gain, as there is not much that can be done to limit the bathroom of choice? Finally, if the General Assembly fails to act, they will be made to act when the law is ruled unconstitutional. This law needs to be repealed to avoid further embarrassment and negative impact on our economy.

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17 thoughts on “North Carolina – State of Confusion

    • It is sad, especially living here. Ironically, Charlotte has the most convention business, so it will suffer the most and its ordinance was overturned.

  1. I find it sad and rather predictable that so many states have begun to create these sort of rights limiting laws. They also remind me of Jim Crow. State Sanctioned negative reactions to positive changes.

    • You are so right. I saw the first episode on “Jazz” by Ken Burns. It discusses openly the role slavery and Jim Crow had on the creation of Jazz and why New Orleans was the incubator. It reminds me of actions taken by so-called leaders today to suppress people and deny rights.

  2. I can understand you feeling so disheartened. My brother- and sister-in-law live in Chapel Hill and I always thought North Carolina was fairly progressive for a southern state. I hope this stupid, discriminatory law will change soon, but it’s a good lesson how fast things can change when the political powers-that-be decide to re-draw the district maps.

    • Very true. The gerrymandering has hurt even the GOP giving more legitimacy to extreme points of view. We are seeing the manifestation of it in the presidential race, where the two worst possible GOP candidates lead the pack.

    • Lisa, I agree. It makes our legislature and governor look small. He said he had a list of 300 companies for the law, but many are very small and many more do not want their name used in public, which says a lot. So, far only 38 companies of the so called list of 300 have been released and it is smaller companies. Thanks for stopping by and opining. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: An additional sad note about our Governor is he used to be a moderate Republican and was a reasonably effective Mayor of Charlotte for fourteen years. So, when he has toed a more extreme party line as Governor, it has been disappointing. His Waterloo, though, may be a toll road which has not been successful elsewhere being poorly thought out. These are the Lexus lanes that do not solve traffic problems, but spend a lot of money. The Spanish company has filled bankruptcy on two similar US projects and someone approved a contract with a $100 – $300 million exit penalty payment.

  4. O.K. North Carolinian… I hear rumors that the bathroom policing component of this flush-able Statehouse offering was just toilet tissue razzile-dazzle to distract the true progeny of some ALEC/Koch retooled compost that negates, among other things, municipal sovereignty, and even child labor laws.

    I suspect a rash of similarly odious legislation from many a Statehouses. But you would think that someone in Raleigh would be smart enough to let someone else, say Alabama, or those Okies, dab a first toe into this cesspool first.

    Strange. It’s no longer left and right. It revanchist versus the rest of us, which makes all the rest of us, conservatives. Weird, huh?

    Regards,
    Doug

    • Doug, you hit the nail on the head. It is all about power. Since large cities are more diverse, they tend toward liberalism – Charlotte and Raleigh are good examples. So, the ALEC strategy was build power in the states. So, we have seen our legislature try to seize control of the Charlotte airport and make municipal power decisions for Asheville. It is all about power and control.

  5. Note to Readers: A comment from a Yale law professor who specializes in LGBT rights basically said the Republican lawmakers in NC have done a favor for the LGBT community, almost as if they were on their payroll. The vitriolic statements in public write the case against the law as its intent of going beyond the issue is clear. I also saw an excellent write-in comment about the bungled reaction by the Governor and lawmakers who should have been more prepared for the backlash. Finally, in an informal poll (emphasis on informal) taken by The Business Journal, 67% said the LGBT law is bad for business in NC. This tends to be a more conservative leaning readership than general society.

  6. You’re right about the bathroom issue. How will they police it? Tell people to drop their underwear before they enter? Progress is slow but hopefully the earth will be around long enough to catch up.

  7. Note to Readers: In a tale of two states and governors, the GOP NC governor and General Assembly are standing firm thus far ignoring what is happening with this law, even blaming the Democrats in Charlotte for causing the state to be more discriminatory. The state leadership may want to look up the word accountability. US Senator Richard Burr said HB2 won’t cost NC business. I wonder what paper he is reading.

    In the same newspaper where his article appeared, an article appeared about CNBC was holding a Squawk Box broadcast just across the border in SC in Indian Land, a suburb of Charlotte, NC, which include Erskine Bowles, Alan Simpson, a Wells Fargo economist, etc. I mention this as SC is leveraging the Charlotte Metro area as well or better than NC.

    But, to rub salt in NC’s wounds, SC Governor Nikki Haley threw water on a similar HB2 effort saying it was not needed. So, contrary to Senator Burr’s remarks, SC is succeeding against NC on recruiting industry and now has one more leg up.

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