Timid HB2 response from NC Chamber does Charlotte no favors

The embarrassingly weak response of the N.C. Chamber, the state’s supposed spokesman for big business, to HB2 was bad enough. Months went by before the organization spoke up, and when it did, it was in a noncommittal whisper. If this is how the group responds to serious crisis, members should consider saving their dues money.

But for all that, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce runs a close second in its timid, frightened response to the heavy-handed HB2, the woeful legislation that overturned a Charlotte City Council ordinance granting transgender people the right to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Republican lawmakers also limited local governments in raising minimum wages or passing other anti-discrimination measures of their own. As a result, the door is open for a business owner to decline service to a gay or transgender person.

After the Charlotte City Council rightly stood up and said it would not repeal the ordinance that started it all, the city’s chamber sent GOP leaders a meek suggestion that cities be allowed to pass rules giving those in the LGBT community some legal protections. But the chamber didn’t call for lawmakers to repeal HB2 – the only sensible alternative to the heavy-handed steps already taken.

The chamber’s weakness is all the more appalling since it produced a report showing that the city and Mecklenburg County had lost over $200 million in wages and benefits since HB2’s passage and $3.7 million in lost sales and property taxes. As many as 1,300 jobs have been lost, and inquiries about new development are down 58 percent, with client visits down 69 percent.

The City of Charlotte also is in danger, serious danger, of losing the 2017 NBA All-Star game because of HB2.

And here’s some painful irony: In a poll from Public Policy Polling, 44 percent of those surveyed oppose HB2, and 35 percent support it, with 21 percent unsure. Some 56 percent of those surveyed think it has hurt the state economically. And consider: The General Assembly’s approval rating is 19 percent. If Republican leaders think they’re taking the public’s pulse with their right-wing zealotry, they might want to check the stethoscope. People don’t like HB2, don’t think it’s doing much good and have little use for the lawmakers who put it into place.

The Charlotte chamber has been a powerful organization in the past, at least in Charlotte. But stances such as this one, if it can be called a stance, will rapidly help to erode what influence the organization has.