North Carolina’s infamous HB2, which prohibits LGBTQ people from getting the sorts of civil rights protections that women and racial minorities receive, as well as mocking the reality of trans* by demanding that everyone go to the restroom corresponding to the “biological sex” on their birth certificate (see here), has caused even more damage. Today, the NBA announced that, because of HB2, it would move its all-star game out of Charlotte in 2017. The league did add that if the HB2 problem were satisfactorily resolved, the city would get the game back in 2019. The league had been threatening this move for some time, and it could cost the Charlotte area economy around $100 million.
Governor Pat McCrory’s response to the move was truly breathtaking, however. As quoted in the Charlotte Observer, McCrory emailed that:
“American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process”
It’s time (again) for a reality check: the city of Charlotte’s democratically elected representatives passed LGBTQ protections this year, including allowing trans* individuals to use the restroom matching their gender identity. The state legislature then ran as fast as it could to Raleigh and in a session that lasted a total of 12 hours, from start to finish, breathlessly passed HB2, not bothering to consider any relevant facts (like the complete absence of any need for the law, since there are zero cases of trans* predators in the over 200 other places with analogous laws, or the fact that assault in a public restroom is already illegal), or even how the law could be enforced (it has no enforcement provision). McCrory immediately signed, and our bill became a law. It’s cost the state and Charlotte a lot of money, is opposed by a plurality of NC residents (43% oppose, only 32% favor), and has spawned a flurry of federal litigation over whether it is pre-empted by federal law (the 4th Circuit seems to think it is; I also think it’s unconstitutional under Romer). Thus it seems that, in defending this law, McCrory and the state legislature have been imposing their political will on North Carolina’s largest city and a plurality of the state's residents, and in so doing bypassing the democratic and legal process. The NBA and Charlotte are on the same page.
But it’s worse than that: in a topic that hasn’t gotten much attention outside of the state, McCrory and the legislature have been locked in a battle over how much money Duke Energy (the largest electric utility company in the country) should have to spend cleaning up toxic coal ash ponds, which contain a cocktail of dangerous things like chromium and arsenic, and which have recently developed the bad habit of leaking into nearby groundwater. The legislature has been pushing hard to make Duke clean up the ponds, preferably yesterday. McCrory has been trying every trick he knows to stop this: first he took a judicially-created opportunity to disband the Coal Ash Management Commission (established by the legislature) and transferred it to the Department of Environmental Quality (which the executive controls). Then he vetoed another legislative bill for managing the cleanup. Then he finally signed a compromise bill that will let Duke provide cleanup at considerably less cost (principally by allowing Duke to let some of the ponds dry out, rather than emptying them), but that left both environmental groups and affected residents deeply skeptical. The whole process has been a tawdry mess (timeline here). Make sure you read to the end of the timeline, because you’ll never guess who worked for Duke Energy for 28 years. What was that phrase again? Oh, right: “selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”