To borrow a phrase from Bruce Springsteen, Gov. Pat McCrory must have sensed some “darkness on the edge of town” in his re-election campaign.
That is the only reason the governor is running for political cover in pretending to correct HB2, the disastrous bill passed by Republican leaders in the legislature. The bill – signed immediately by the governor – has cost the state hundreds of jobs and made North Carolina a national laughingstock.
In a news release and with his standard smiling video, McCrory implies that with an executive order, he’s fixing HB2, which, in reaction to a Charlotte city ordinance, banned transgender people from using bathrooms based on the gender with which they identify. But HB2 also took away the rights of local governments to install anti-discrimination laws protecting people from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. And it also, just because Republicans wanted to do so, prohibited local governments from establishing a minimum wage higher than the state standard of $7.25 an hour.
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In his video, the governor repeats his complaint that HB2’s critics are trying to hurt North Carolina, but it’s McCrory and his fellow Republicans who are dismantling the state’s hard-won reputation as an enlightened place. Phil Berger, president pro tem of the state Senate, praised the governor’s “action” and then ducked into the last refuge of politicians who make huge mistakes that backfire: He blamed the media.
In fact, the governor’s claims are muddled. His executive order really has little authority behind it. HB2 is on the books. Its provisions are in place. In the news release about his order, the governor is said to want to “encourage” lawmakers to reinstate the rights of workers to sue employers for discrimination in state courts. HB2 limited such action to federal courts. But legislators, who have shown little interest in following any of the governor’s suggestions for nearly four years, aren’t bound to do anything by the governor’s “order.” Berger’s response, notably, made no mention of eliminating the ban on discrimination cases in state courts.
The governor’s order expands to state employees protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Those protections already exist in the Office of the State Treasurer and the Attorney General’s Office.
Otherwise, the governor, according to his news release, seems to affirm HB2 while claiming to modify it. He should stop spinning the law and call for its total repeal.