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Local legislators remain firm in House Bill 2 support

A vote for change may be unlikely, but three of Rowan’s state legislators say they’re willing to listen to possible revisions in a controversial state law when the N.C. General Assembly’s session convenes later this month.

Rep. Carl Ford, R-76, and Sen. Tom McInnis, R-25, say an overwhelming majority of their constituents have expressed support for the controversial bill, which struck down a Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Ford said he’s been surprised by the amount of support for House Bill 2. People are more apt to express opposition to an issue than express support, he said. McInnis said hardly any of his constituents have expressed opposition to the measure.

“Every call or communication that I’m getting from people in the district with very, very, very few exemptions are for what we did in passing House Bill 2,” McInnis said. “I work for the people in District 25 and plan on staying the course.”

When asked about the upcoming short session, Ford said he expects Democrats in the legislature, and perhaps a Republican or two, to introduce legislation that would alter House Bill 2. Rep. Harry Warren, R-77, said Democrats will likely introduce a revision “to keep the subject alive.”

When the session starts on April 25, regardless of who introduces a revision,  Ford, McInnis and Warren said they’ll at least listen to proposals.

“As the elected representative for District 77, I will look at anything that someone proposes, but I don’t think that I would be receptive to a revision,” Warren said. “The bill is common sense. It puts the situation back to the way it was, back to the way it should be.”

Citing constituent support of House Bill 2, McInnis also cast doubt on whether he’d seriously consider a revision.

“I’ve got an open mind on everything, but I listen to my constituents,” McInnis said. “And, if my constituents support it, then I want to leave it just like it is.”

When asked the same question, Sen. Andrew Brock, R-34, said he couldn’t think of anything that needed to be changed in House Bill 2, which quickly drew nationwide attention after being passed in March by the N.C. General Assembly.

State legislators on March 23 were called into special session to consider passing a measure that would overturn a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance. The most controversial provision in the Charlotte ordinance would’ve allowed transgender people to use a bathroom that corresponded with their gender identity.

House Bill 2 was the result. It overturned the Charlotte ordinance and much more. The bill’s provisions eliminate any state claim for discrimination in the workplace on the basis of national origin or ethnicity, prevent any local government from raising the minimum wage and overrules all existing and future local protections for LGBT people in North Carolina.

When promoting House Bill 2, state legislators most frequently talk about its protect to protect the safety of women and children. If the Charlotte ordinance hadn’t been overturned, legislators say a man might have posed as a woman in order to enter a women’s bathroom. Lawmakers have frequently cited an incident in Seattle, where a man undressed in a women’s locker room.

“He’s not gay. He would use the law as a cover,” Brock said. “You have to look at the bad actors out there that would take advantage of it.”

More than 150 businesses have officially announced their opposition to House Bill 2, including PayPal. The company canceled plans to bring 400 jobs to Charlotte.

The publicly released list of businesses that support House Bill 2 is relatively short. However, Ford says an equally large, or perhaps larger, number of businesses have expressed support for House Bill 2. A number of businesses are afraid of backlash and don’t want their name released publicly, he said.

Republican legislators, including those who represent Rowan, said Paypal’s decision to leave Charlotte is hypocritical. The company operates in countries where it’s illegal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, legislators said

“It does not concern me in the least, especially in the instance of PayPal,” McInnis said about business opposition.

Warren said state government can now use the $3.7 million in tax incentives that would’ve gone to PayPal for education and raising teacher pay.

When asked, Brock countered that House Bill 2 doesn’t apply to businesses such as PayPal. He says a private businesses “can do whatever they want in their own facilities.”

The bathroom provisions in House Bill 2 have attracted the most attention, but Rowan’s state legislators said they also firmly support provisions that prevent limit local minimum wage increases. Brock said $7.25 per hour is a starting point. It’s a number that people shouldn’t aspire to stay at, he said. Ford and Warren said allowing local governments to raise the minimum wage would create confusion.

Statewide polls about House Bill 2 aren’t quite as clear as the constituent support cited by legislators.

The most recent poll conducted for Time Warner Cable News shows 51 percent of North Carolinians support the measure. Several other, earlier polls show different results.

A poll by conservative-leaning Civitas Insitute shows 69 percent of North Carolinians wanted the Charlotte ordinance struck down. A survey by liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling found the opposite. A poll by WRAL-TV, the earliest statewide survey about House Bill 2, found 36 percent of respondents wanted the N.C. General Assembly to override Charlotte’s ordinance. However, a total of 57 percent of respondents would’ve preferred a statewide referendum on the issue or that the ordinance be left alone.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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