Opinion Column by Jim Meredith, Randolph County Democratic Party Chair. Published in the Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, NC April 22, 2016
Not since the establishment of Jim Crow over a century ago has a North Carolina Legislature been so mean-spirited, so cynical, so lacking in conscience, so devoid of moral authority. Never before has a North Carolina legislature been so oblivious to the tide of history. Never has a Legislature been so careless, so irresponsible, and so heedless of the impact of their actions on the well-being of our state and its citizens.
Although I am a well-known active Democrat, I have lived most of my life in Randolph County and I have no shortage of Republican friends and relatives. Some of those Republican friends and I have found ourselves agreeing about HB2. People of both parties want their LGBT friends and relatives treated with kindness and respect. People of both parties are using phrases like “mean spirited”, “legislative overreach”, “intrusive”, and “authoritarian.”
As a Republican acquaintance told me, “This is, in no way, small government.”
The high profile “bathroom” provisions of HB2 have generated most of the national outrage. That may be what our legislators intended. They may have cynically assumed that the majority of North Carolinians had gut-negative attitudes toward the LGBT community and wouldn’t pay attention to the rest of the bill.
In 12 short hours, they ran roughshod over democratic principle and due process. The rushed schedule prevented people from having time to adequately review and challenge the law. The result was a law that prevents employees who are unjustly fired from filing claims of discrimination in state courts.
It takes away power to set non-discrimination policy from local governments, regardless of the will of the citizens who live there, and it prevents local governments from setting local minimum wage policies.
Across the nation, we see cities taking matters into their own hands when state governments are unwilling to tackle problems at the state level. North Carolina legislators clearly do not trust democracy and are making sure that local officials, answerable to local voters, do not have the rights they have in other states.
There are other examples of arrogant, dictatorial rule by our legislature. In previous legislation, they have denied local governments the power to restrict or regulate “fracking” in their jurisdictions, even if local citizens wish their governments to do so. The legislature has also passed laws to confiscate local resources, developed and paid for by local governments, such as the Asheville water system and the Charlotte Municipal Airport.
Our legislature, for ideological reasons, cut education spending and denied Medicaid expansion that was already paid for by North Carolina’s taxpayers. For political reasons, they would rather have our tax money subsidize health care in other parts of the country than help North Carolina citizens in need, or reap the local economic benefits that would have resulted if we had accepted those federal dollars.
A Republican friend told me this is the worst North Carolina legislature in history. I agree with him.
How can our legislators be so fearless and arrogant?
It’s simple. They believe they are untouchable. They feel safe and secure in gerrymandered voting districts. However, it is possible to override the effects of gerrymandering if enough people turn out to vote and I hope that is what happens this fall.
I should also mention that the Randolph County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution earlier this month in support of HB2. It was not a unanimous decision. One member was absent and one member voted against it.
I don’t believe the commissioners thought through the implications of their resolution before passing it. Although, Randolph County is relatively conservative, its citizens still want economic growth and the jobs that come with it. They want tourists to visit and spend their dollars here. They want businesses to move in and young families to take up residence.
By claiming that Randolph County supports HB2, the commissioners are advertising an unwelcoming and intolerant attitude that will discourage tourism and dissuade businesses, families and young people from moving here. That cannot have been their intent and it is my hope that in May, the commission will have second thoughts and rescind their harmful resolution.
* Jim Meredith is a member of The Courier-Tribune’s 2016 panel of guest columnists. An information technology manager at Replacements Ltd. in Greensboro, he and his wife, Beverly, live near Liberty with their children, Suzanne, Tia and Wilson. He is also chair of the Randolph County Democratic Party. Contact:email@example.com