Thursday, December 22, 2016

A bad day for North Carolina and a cynical maneuver: HB2

A bad day for North Carolina and a cynical maneuver:  HB2

Our legislature failed to muster the necessary votes to repeal HB2 (the bathroom bill) after Charlotte repealed its anti-discrimination ordinance.  That’s the headline on most news-related media sites.[1]  Realizing they could not muster the votes to repeal HB2, the Republican majority resorted to maneuver that required Democrats to vote against the repeal of HB2.  I’m relating this legislative detail because it illustrates how broken and cynical our politics are in North Carolina.

First, a bit of background.  In North Carolina both houses of the General Assembly have Republican supermajorities, so it’s clear that Republicans have the ability to pass anything they want to enact.  However, they could not muster enough Republican votes to repeal HB2 without Democratic support.  The House never debated, introduced a bill or voted on anything except adjournment.  Senate Republicans refused to propose a straightforward repeal of HB2.  Rather they included an extra section placing a six-month moratorium on the enactment of any local ordinance regarding discrimination in employment, public accommodations or bathrooms.[2]  Democrats opposed the bill because the repeal of HB2 was accompanied by a moratorium, and as it turned out a majority of Republicans senators couldn’t support the bill either.  That should have been the end of the special session.

Instead, Senate Republicans resorted to an obscure rule that allows a bill to be split in two parts.  If both parts pass, the bill’s two sections are reunited and the legislation passes.  In other words, there is never a vote on the whole bill, just its pieces.  This maneuver created the appearance of a straight up or down vote on HB2.  As a result, Democrats were forced to go on the record as voting against the repeal of HB2, which they did!  As expected, the straight repeal component failed, which eliminated the need to vote on the moratorium.   The Democrats had little choice but to vote against the first part because the Republicans would have then passed the moratorium on a party line vote, allowing a bill to pass that Democrats opposed.  As soon as the Republicans had pulled off this political slight-of-hand, they adjourned.

The rights of our transgender community, the wellbeing of our economy, or the reputation of our state be damned.  This is just plain ugly.  Merry Christmas Democrats, the Republicans forced you to vote against the repeal of HB2.

[2] Senator Majority Leader amended the six-month moratorium provision to make the moratorium run for 30-days beyond the end of the next legislative session.

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