Op-Ed: North Carolina’s General Assembly fumbled its latest chance

Op-Ed: North Carolina’s General Assembly fumbled its latest chance
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The N.C. General Assembly gained global attention by introducing a law called HB2 in reaction to an ordinance passed in its biggest city, Charlotte, to better accommodate transgender people in bathroom choice.

[Agenda story: EXPLAINER: What happened in Raleigh with Charlotte’s LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance]

The state-wide HB2 law passed earlier this year, in essence, does the following:

  • Overturns the Charlotte ordinance and makes it so transgender people can only use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate.
  • Strikes the words referenced by LGBT from protection of discrimination under the law, not just transgender folks.
  • Eliminates the ability for anyone to bring suit in state court should they feel discriminated against by an employer (the only recourse is in more expensive and elongated federal court).
  • Eliminates the ability of a city to have a minimum wage higher than the minimum wage of the state, in this case the federal minimum.

The push back has been significant and will continue to be so. Two companies have changed plans for moves or expansions in the state. What is not known is how many companies have taken North Carolina off its relocation list.

What is known is several performers have canceled tours in the state and the semi-annual Furniture Market in High Point, which is very lucrative to the state, saw a 10% fall-off at the spring event. And now, it is almost certain that Charlotte will lose the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.

This month, our legislature decided to only change one part of the law, the one that impacted the right to sue in state court for discrimination claims. This impacted everyone, but the added back feature reduced the original time limit to one year from the previous three before HB2.

Irrespective of how one feels about this issue, here is likely what will happen over the next year:

  • The NBA will announce to its global following that they will move the 2017 All-Star Game to another city from Charlotte because of the discriminatory HB2 law. Instead of saying “Welcome to North Carolina” next winter, they will be tarnishing our global image within the next few weeks.
  • The October Furniture Market in High Point will see huge fall offs in buyers and sellers, jeopardizing its future in North Carolina with cities like Las Vegas, Orlando, etc. on record as having wanted the Furniture Market for some time.
  • North Carolina’s business relocations (those who don’t move here and those who move away) will begin to show more in the data, with South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee reaping more dividends. South Carolina already capitalizes on the metro Charlotte asset with significant growth just across the border in Indian Land, Fort Mill, Rock Hill, Lancaster and Chester.
  • Eventually, HB2 will be ruled unconstitutional either in the first trial or in appeal. It should be noted the US Department of Justice just filed an injunction against implementation of HB2 and 68 global companies have publicly supported the law suits against HB2, saying it is counter to their discriminatory policies.

As a North Carolinian and American citizen, seeing leaders pass discriminatory laws is appalling. This is not the first law that will be ruled unconstitutional passed by this and the previous General Assembly, it will be the 4th or 5th pending one outcome. Call me crazy, but that is not only wrong, it is a waste of money and time. Plus, it is harmful to our brand identity.

Keith Wilson, Charlotte, Independent, Board Member and former Board Chair of several homeless services agencies, Retired Benefits Consultant, former actuary and former director of compensation and benefits for a Fortune 500 company.

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