The recurring HB2 nightmare will celebrate a birthday next month with no end in sight. Both sides of the political spectrum find themselves in a box, albeit a cardboard box they are treating as if it had walls of steel.
Governor Cooper fired the latest salvo in this running battle. Cooper proposed repealing HB2, increasing penalties for committing a crime in a public bathroom or locker room and requiring any cities and counties seeking to create nondiscrimination ordinances to provide 30 days’ notice to the legislature. The governor’s proposed solution was met with immediate disdain from those on both sides but syndicated columnist and NC SPIN panelist John Hood says perhaps both were too fast with the criticism and should have reflected more before drawing swords.
Hood says that there may be a compromise here. Cooper’s suggestion on the 30-day notification might open the door to negotiations. The legislature had originally proposed a 6-month moratorium before local governments could pass nondiscrimination ordinances; suppose both sides would agree to an outright repeal of HB2, split the difference and agree on a 90-day notification period?
This compromise agreement would accomplish several important goals. If enacted before the end of this month both sides of the issue could claim victory, even if neither got all they wanted. This compromise would essentially return us to the status quo before Charlotte passed its ordinance and the legislature countered with HB2, a point where most acknowledge there weren’t widespread evidences of discrimination or related crimes. Such a compromise could forestall another round of ACC and NCAA boycotts for holding tournaments and events in our state, remove the barriers for businesses seeking to relocate here and staunch the damage to our reputation. Without question our state would enjoy economic benefits. Further, a 90-day notification would allow the legislature ample time to review proposed local nondiscrimination ordinances, discuss them with local government officials and respond, hopefully with more consideration and deliberation than we saw in the passage of HB2, if they deem action is desired.
If a local government disagreed with legislative action it could pursue remedies in the courts, understanding that these court battles would be costly, lengthy and likely without much success, since local governments are the creation of and ultimately governed by the legislature. But that situation is unchanged from where they are currently. Cases of individual or even class action discrimination claims could be entered in state courts, also currently allowed.
Curiously, there is one point upon which most agree: North Carolina must end this nightmarish HB2 debacle. What we have seen to date is a war of press releases, mutual distrust, grandstanding and tribal polarization. We don’t need a champion girded for battle riding a stallion. What we do need is leaders who will talk with and listen to each other (something there is little evidence that is occurring now), who are willing to find compromise solutions and who are less concerned with who gets credit for resolving the crisis than they are in getting it resolved.
Now is the time to escape the HB2 box and move forward. Failure to do so immediately will only bring more needless economic and political distress.
Tom Campbell is the executive producer and moderator of NC Spin.