Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The Charlotte Observer on the end of Gov. Pat McCrory’s term:
Stop us if you’ve heard this one. The North Carolina legislature passes a bad bill and sends it to Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory says the bill includes provisions that are “wrong and short-sighted.” McCrory then signs the bill anyway.
It happened yet again this week. The governor is leaving office with a whimper, a fitting ending to a thoroughly disappointing term. McCrory took office four years ago endorsed by most of the state’s newspapers, riding a decisive victory and a career-long record as a centrist who got things done. He leaves it as legislative roadkill, unable to stand up for anything or to anyone.
Given one last chance to adhere to principle and end his lone term as a statesman, he instead stuck to the pattern that cratered his gubernatorial tenure: ignoring voters, rolling over for Senate leader Phil Berger and feeding the good ol’ boy network that he vowed to break up when campaigning in 2012.
Late Monday, McCrory signed House Bill 17, which was part of the legislature’s egregious power-grab in its special session last week. He did so even as he said he had a “major disagreement” with it. In a statement explaining his support for the bill, McCrory didn’t so much applaud it as argue that its elements were “hardly extreme.”
He added: “My major disagreement with this bill is requiring confirmation of cabinet secretaries. This is wrong and short-sighted” and Gov.-elect Roy Cooper needs to work with the legislature on it. “With this in mind, I will sign House Bill 17.”
Thanks for nothing, Governor. The bill strips the governor of the ability to appoint trustees to boards of UNC system schools and gives the Senate veto power over cabinet secretary appointments, among other things. Past governors of both parties agreed it was an overreach. McCrory’s support for it was especially jarring given that he had successfully fought the legislature in a separation-of-powers case decided this year by the N.C. Supreme Court.
McCrory could have salvaged some of his legacy in the final weeks of his term. He led ably on providing Hurricane Matthew relief. But that good work was overshadowed first by his support for a voter suppression bill that a federal court said targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.” Then, when it was clear to almost everyone that he had lost his re-election bid, he dinged democracy by alleging widespread voter fraud, which was a phantom. This week and last, he gave a final insult to voters by endorsing the legislature’s anti-democratic bullying.
As a parting gift to taxpayers, McCrory engaged in the very kind of sliminess he decried when running on the premise that “Raleigh is broken.” Armed with 11th-hour legislation, McCrory appointed his chief of staff’s wife, Yolanda Stith, to a six-year term on the Industrial Commission. Though she has little relevant experience, she will be paid $127,000 a year.
McCrory’s work here is done. On to the Trump administration.
The (Asheville) Citizen-Times on state lawmakers repeal of House Bill 2:
Lawmakers in Raleigh will be looking for gold stars and sympathy this week after finally moving toward a repeal of House Bill 2, a landmark mess of their own making. North Carolina voters should give them neither.
Last February, Charlotte passed a city ordinance designed to safeguard the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. It gave them the same protection against discrimination by businesses long afforded on the basis of race, age, religion and gender. It also said transgender individuals could use the restroom facilities of the gender with which they identify.
That last part quickly became the target of demagogues. Sexual predators will be able to prey on girls in female restrooms, they said. Never mind that 17 of the nation’s 20 most populous cities already had such provisions in place with no reported problems. Facts don’t matter to demagogues.
In March the General Assembly went into special session and rushed through HB2, which Gov. Pat McCrory quickly signed into law. HB2 says transgender people must use the bathrooms for the gender recorded on their birth certificates. It also forbids local governments from banning discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.
For good measure, the law also prevents local governments from setting a local minimum wage or adopted other local rules on employment.
As the outcry mounted, along with the damage to the state’s economy, the General Assembly leaders and McCrory stubbornly refused to consider repeal of HB2. The state became the butt of TV jokes and, more seriously, the target of boycotts.
Among the corporate expansions canceled because of HB2 was a PayPal operations center at Charlotte that would have employed at least 400. Bruce Springsteen called off a concert, while both the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference moved sporting events out of the state.
Asheville fared better when the Southern Conference decided to keep its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments here. We suspect the city’s reputation for inclusiveness was an important factor.
Legislative leaders had suggested they would repeal HB2 if Charlotte first would repeal its ordinance. They got no takers until Monday, when Charlotte - apparently at the behest of Gov.-elect Roy Cooper - voted to wipe out its law if the state repeals HB2 by Dec. 31. McCrory has called a special session of the General Assembly for Wednesday.
Why now? Legislative leaders say the timing provides that the purpose of the law all along was to help Cooper in his campaign against McCrory.
“Today Roy Cooper and (Charlotte Mayor) Jennifer Roberts proved what we said was the case all along: their efforts to force men into women’s bathrooms and shower facilities was a political stunt to drive out-of-state money into the governor’s race,” Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a joint statement.
Ignoring for the moment the gross misrepresentation of the Charlotte ordinance, the idea that Charlotte leaders were thinking of the governor’s race is disingenuous at best. The ordinance had in fact been under consideration for more than a year and had failed in a 2015 vote.
Besides, any effort by NCGA leadership this week to cast stones regarding political power volleying is laughable after the week they’ve had. Playing the cheated political underdog at this point is yet another insult to voters’ intelligence.
Even if everything goes as planned, the damage done to the state’s reputation is a bell that cannot be unrung. Further, Charlotte’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents are back where they were a year ago, without the protections they deserve.
There are no clear winners from Charlotte’s surrender this week. But we hope going forward that lawmakers will put the people of North Carolina where they should have been all along - first.
The Winston-Salem Journal on updating victims of North Carolina’s former sterilization program:
With the end of 2016 just days away, victims of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program have yet to receive their last payment - or the simply courtesy of a written update from the state. The lack of an update is shameful.
The state last gave the victims an update in June, and that letter only came after weeks of pushing by the Journal editorial board. The situation has changed little since then: The final payments are still being held up by appeals to the state Supreme Court by those who did not qualify for compensation. Then, as now, we urge the court to speed up its work.
And we call on the state to update the victims, several of whom have been asking our editorial board what the holdup is. We’re happy to explain it to them. But we worry about all the victims who don’t know to call us. The state, through its Industrial Commission and Department of Administration, should be updating all the victims.
The Journal revealed the program’s brutal inner machinations 14 Decembers ago in the series “Against Their Will.” North Carolina ran one of the most aggressive sterilization program in the country from 1929 through 1974, rendering barren more than 7,600 men, women and children, deciding, on often shaky evidence, that they were mentally or physically unfit to reproduce. But victims we know who had a child before the state got to them have proved to be excellent parents, and their children have carved out successful careers, giving the lie to the state program.
The Journal editorial board, former state Rep. Larry Womble of Winston-Salem and former state House Speaker Thom Tillis pushed for reparations for the sterilization victims. Womble, a Democrat, and Tillis, a Republican, joined forces to right a wrong that Democrats had created and failed to correct. Theirs was a strong show of bipartisanship for the best of causes.
North Carolina got a lot right in 2013 when it became the first state in the nation to approve compensation for victims of forced sterilization. The first checks went out in the fall of 2014. A second check went out a year later. Since then, nothing has happened. The final check, which should bring the total compensation for each victim to more than $45,000, has yet to go out.
The money for the more than 200 qualified victims is there by law, part of a $10-million pool approved by the legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory. The victims we talk to, of modest means and haunted by mental and physical pains from their operations, are anxious about their final payments. After what the state did to them all those years ago, they, understandably, don’t trust the government.
The state’s highest court must pick up the pace on the appeals. And the McCrory administration should give these victims the simple courtesy of an update letter. That would be only decent for these victims who were treated so indecently by the state.
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