Federal Court to Hear Arguments Regarding Injunction for House Bill 2

North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 will be argued before United States District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder on Monday, August 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal filed a motion in May requesting a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of HB2 across the state.

Those groups have argued that North Carolina’s House Bill 2 constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex by requiring transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility that corresponds with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity and should therefore not be implemented across the state.

The three advocacy groups and the law firm of Jenner & Block are representing six LGBT North Carolinians and members of the ACLU of North Carolina in their federal court challenge of HB2.

The groups released a joint statement on Thursday:

“Every day that House Bill 2 remains on the books, transgender North Carolinians suffer irreparable harm at work, in school, and in other public places, simply because they want to use public facilities safely just like everyone else but this hateful law prevents them from doing so. We are glad our clients will finally have their day in court, and we hope that this discriminatory law’s days are numbered.”

The lawsuit challenging House Bill 2 was brought soon after the North Carolina General Assembly met in a special session to pass the legislation in late March.

The United States Department of Justice is also in a legal battle with North Carolina over the law and filed a motion asking for a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the law last week.


Progress NC Permit to Rent Executive Mansion Canceled by McCrory’s Office

The permit granted to the non-profit organization Progress NC to hold an event in the North Carolina Executive Mansion on Wednesday night has been canceled.

Progress NC had rented out the mansion for an “evening reception,” according to the contract provided by the governor’s office. The group was calling the event the “Garden Party Against Hate.”

Progress NC was founded in 2011 “to promote public policies that make NC a fairer, healthier, more equitable state,” according to the group’s twitter account. And the group has been one of the most vocal critics of North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2.

McCrory’s office said in a release:

“It became clear this afternoon that Progress NC had reserved the Executive Mansion for a coordinated political protest instead of the event it has discussed with staff and agreed upon in its contract. These publicly announced plans were in violation of the agreed upon contract, therefore the permit to use the mansion has been cancelled.”

The contract states that “civic and cultural groups, political groups, non-profit organizations, and local, state and federal government agencies may use the Executive Mansion.”

The contract goes on to say that the mansion may be used only for “meetings, receptions, teas, luncheons or dinners. Weddings, political campaign events, and fundraising events are strictly prohibited.” McCrory’s office said that provision is what caused the cancellation of the permit.

Progress NC is now asking those who were planning to attend the event at the Executive Mansion to join the Air Horn Orchestra across the street from the mansion at six o’clock Wednesday evening. The Air Horn Orchestra has been meeting on Wednesdays over the last several months to blast air horns in the direction of the mansion in protest of HB2.


Roy Cooper Outpacing Pat McCrory in Campaign Fundraising

The stage is set for North Carolina to be home for one of the most competitive and most expensive gubernatorial races in the country in November.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper outpaced the incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory in fundraising in the second quarter of 2016.

The numbers were released by each campaign on Tuesday with Cooper bringing in $5.12 million compared to $3.2 for McCrory’s camp. That adds to the lead Cooper grabbed in first-quarter fundraising and brings Cooper’s cash-on-hand amount to $9.4 million, while McCrory has $6.3 in the bank.

Cooper’s campaign said the second-quarter fundraising was thanks to “strong grassroots enthusiasm for Roy Cooper for governor.” Meanwhile, the McCrory campaign said in a statement that Cooper was able to raise that much money because he “hasn’t been doing his job as attorney general.”

Meredith College Political Science professor David McLennan says the second quarter numbers could show “something going on that may be affecting Governor McCrory’s fundraising total.”

You could probably guess what McLennan says that “something” may be.

“I do think HB2 may have affected his fundraising totals,” McLennan said.

House Bill 2 was passed in a one-day special session in late March and requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity. The bill also restricted localities from passing nondiscrimination policies that extend beyond the state’s policy.

“[The second fundraising quarter] was when all of the controversy – both statewide and nationally – was happening,” McLennan added. “And [McCrory] is the face of HB2. Even though he may not have initiated it, he became the person that was most identified with it.”

McLennan said Cooper’s numbers “could also be reflecting some HB2 impact” because Cooper quickly came out in opposition to the law.

But Cooper has been outpacing McCrory since 2015, which McLennan said is “kind of unusual for an incumbent governor.”

McLennan added that historically Democrats have had better luck fundraising than their Republican counterparts in the Tar Heel state. But he said there was one caveat to Cooper’s lead.

“Because so much fundraising today is done by outside groups, even though the governor may be at a deficit in terms of his fundraising totals and cash on hand, he’s getting pretty strong support from the Republican Governor’s Association and some other outside groups,” McLennan said. “That’s going to kind of balance a little bit of his fundraising deficit.”

McLennan said he sees parallels with the expected spending in this race and the 2014 Senate race in North Carolina that was the most expensive Senate competition in history.

While cash on hand is “pretty high” right now, McLennan said, it will be important to keep an eye on expenditures going forward.

“The Cooper campaign in particular has started advertising,” McLennan said. “Some outside groups have started advertising for Governor McCrory.”

McLennan said he anticipates spending ramping up in late August and early September.

“The person doesn’t win the race by having the most money in the bank,” McLennan said. “It’s choosing how to spend their money.”

Recent surveys have shown North Carolinians evenly divided in support for the gubernatorial race and that is not expected to change before Election Day.

Listen to the full interview with McLennan below:


2017 Conference Slated for Chapel Hill Cancels Over HB2

A convention scheduled to take place in Chapel Hill next year has canceled over North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2.

The Public Management Research Associates Conference was scheduled to be held in Chapel Hill in June 2017. But the group’s Board of Directors decided at its recent meeting in June to cancel because of the law that requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate rather than their gender identity, according to an e-mail from the Orange County Visitor’s Bureau to the County Commissioners.

This marks the sixth cancelation of a conference in Orange County, according to the e-mail. The others include the ESIP Annual Conference, Maternal Child Healthcare Training, Foundation of Earth Science, the National MCH Workforce Development and tobacco control researchers.

The Visitors Bureau is now projecting a total loss of hotel revenues of approximately $1.2 million due to the cancellations.

The latest cancelation was described as a “huge conference for Orange County with an anticipated economic impact of $453,615 and 1780 room nights.”

The e-mail adds, “Based on the feedback we’ve received, HB2 is a guarantee that our tourism economy could be severely damaged.”

There have been businesses that put expansion plans on hold or canceled them altogether because of HB2.

The National Basketball Association has also said changes would need to be made to the law if the league was going to follow through holding the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte as planned.

The North Carolina General Assembly recently wrapped up the legislative session without changing any of the high-profile provisions of the legislation.


State Veterinarian Urges Horse Owners to Vaccinate Equine From Fatal Virus

If you own a horse it may be time to get a vaccination for Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis. The first case of 2016 has recently been confirmed in North Carolina, after a quarter horse in Pitt County died from infection.

EEE is a mosquito-borne disease and is preventable from vaccination. Once a horse has been infected by the disease it may take three to 10 days for symptoms to appear.

The disease causes swelling to the brain and spinal cord and is usually fatal. Symptoms a horse displays when infected are weakness, stumbling, depression and inability to stand or eat.

State Veterinarian Doug Meckes said in a release to contact your vet immediately if your horse starts showing any symptoms.

Meckes suggests getting your horses vaccinated immediately from EEE and West Nile Virus. It should be noted that the vaccinations require two shots, 30 days apart.

Keeping horses in stalls at night, using insect screens and fans and turning off lights after dusk can reduce mosquito exposure.


US Senate Candidate Chapel Hill Visit Postponed

***UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Ross campaign said on Thursday afternoon that the candidate’s visit to Carol Woods had to be canceled and that another visit would be rescheduled for later in the month.***

Democratic US Senate nominee Deborah Ross is scheduled to visit Chapel Hill Thursday afternoon.

Ross is slated to talk about how she will work to expand and strengthen Social Security and Medicare during a visit to the Carol Woods Retirement Community off of Weaver Dairy Road, according to her campaign.

A release from Ross’ press office says the candidate will “talk about the need to protect Social Security and Medicare from plans like those offered by Senator Burr that would benefit special interests and hurt seniors and those working toward retirement.”

Ross is scheduled to be in Chapel Hill from 3:30 until 4:30 this afternoon.

Burr and Ross are locked in what surveys show to be a tight race for the Senate seat in the November election.


US Department of Justice Asks Federal Court to Bar Implementation of HB2

North Carolina’s House Bill 2 constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex by requiring transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility that corresponds with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity and should therefore not be implemented across the state.

That was the argument put forward by the United States Department of Justice in a court filing on Tuesday asking the United States District Court in North Carolina’s Middle District to grant a preliminary injunction to stop the law from being implemented.

United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch called HB2 “state-sponsored discrimination” when announcing that the DOJ was suing the state over the legislation in May.

Proponents of the “bathroom bill” have continued to say the law is only intended to protect women and children across the state and have called the bill “common sense” legislation.

The initial bill went beyond the bathroom provision and barred localities across the state from implementing anti-discrimination policies that went beyond the state language. The bill also stopped residents from being able to sue in state court over employment discrimination, instead it would have forced them to the federal court system.

After months of pressure, including from Governor Pat McCrory, that portion of the bill was changed at the last minute of the short legislative session that wrapped up just before the July 4 holiday weekend. The new piece of legislation does not fully restore worker’s rights in North Carolina. Under the previous law, workers had three years to file a claim; that range has now been brought down to one year.

No other portions of HB2 were altered during the session. That could cost the state the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, among the other business investments that have withdrawn from the state over the bill.

The UNC System has maintained that it is caught between complying with state and federal law in this matter and System President Margaret Spellings has said the system campuses will not enforce the law.

There is no timeline for a decision regarding Tuesday’s motion to stop the law from being implemented and enforced statewide.


No Changes Imminent for HB2

***UPDATE: The General Assembly passed a measure on Friday night to restore the right to sue in state court for discrimination. Prior to HB2, workers had three years to file a discrimination lawsuit in state court. Under the new provision, that time limit would be one year.***

It now appears as though no adjustments will be made to North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 before the General Assembly wraps up the short legislative session ahead of the July 4 holiday.

Meetings were held this week between the governor and members of each side of the political aisle after Charlotte TV station WBTV first reported draft revisions to HB2 were being discussed.

Advocates said the provisions were not a real fix for the legislation that requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility that matches their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed the legislation in late March the same day the bill was introduced and pass through the General Assembly in a special session. McCrory called for changes to the portion of the bill that took away the right to sue for discrimination in state court, but it now appears even that provision will remain untouched.

The bill has caused some companies to rethink or completely back out of expansions in North Carolina.

But what has drawn the most attention is the possibility that the National Basketball Association may move the 2017 All-Star Game from the Tar Heel state.

The All-Star Game and the associated festivities are – as of right now – slated to take place in Charlotte in February 2017. But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been a vocal opponent of HB2 since it was signed into law and said that adjustments would need to be made for the game to be played in North Carolina.

While potential changes were being discussed, the NBA and Charlotte Hornets issued a joint statement saying the alterations would not go far enough to win the backing of the league.

“We have been engaged in dialogue with numerous groups at the city and state levels, but we do not endorse the version of the bill that we understand is currently before the legislature. We remain committed to our guiding principles of inclusion, mutual respect and equal protections for all. We continue to believe that constructive engagement with all sides is the right path forward. There has been no new decision made regarding the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.”

Silver previously said that the NBA would need to see substantive changes made to HB2 by the end of the summer to proceed with the game in Charlotte. NBA Analyst Charles Barkley said that he would consider boycotting the game if it were to be held in the Queen City.


Meyer: HB2 Changes Just ‘Political Ploy’ That Won’t Fix Issues

The North Carolina General Assembly is coming down the home stretch of the short legislative session hoping to be finish up the remaining legislation to bring the session to a close before the July 4 weekend.

Local House Representative Graig Meyer said in an interview Wednesday afternoon that “the final week of a legislative session is always rushed.”

He added, “The fact that we’re coming up on the Fourth of July weekend is adding some pressure, both in terms of people wanting to be done so that we can go home for the holiday and not have to come back but also because it’s going to be a good time to run bad legislation because it will be a really dead media cycle.

“And so I think there’s a number of things moving with the hope that some stuff can get done by Friday and not receive a whole lot of press attention.”

Meyer on rumored changes coming to HB2:

We know that the governor was here today to meet with all of the Republicans in the legislature and to talk about a possible second approach to House Bill 2. But we also know that they have not engaged with Equality North Carolina nor with Democratic leadership.

And so they’re not really going to move forward with anything that would repeal House Bill 2 or create additional discrimination protections for gender identity or sexual orientation.

So whatever they come out with is going to be a carefully crafted political ploy to try and make it look like they fixed the problem without actually providing any type of real discrimination protections.

Meyer on HB100:

Right now, that anti-immigrant bill does not seem to be at the top of the list of priorities for the House. And my hope is that we will take care of the top priorities and finish up and adjourn without House Bill 100 ever coming back to us for a concurrence vote and we can just let it die with the end of session.

Meyer on the light rail spending cap:

That’s going to be set in stone for this budget. We’re not going to be able to defeat the budget and, at this point in the process, there’s no way to amend that.

I think what that provision shows, in part, is that the light rail project is a very expensive project. There’s no way to get around that. And if it is going to move forward, it’s going to require significant financial commitment from the General Assembly. And clearly there is hesitance in the General Assembly to provide that level of support. And this is one way to signal that the money that would be necessary is not likely to be forthcoming with the current legislative leadership.

That can raise some questions about leadership and what’s the direction of the General Assembly and the extent to which it would support a public transportation project like that. But it also means that our local leaders are going to have to have some hard conversations about what type of transportation projects do we want to fund with the funding that we have available if we’re not going to get the money that will be required from the General Assembly for a light rail project. Maybe there’s ways to open that up and think about, ‘Are there other solutions that could meet the needs of the community besides the light rail?’


Meyer said he was concerned with other items in the budget, including provisions regarding water quality in Jordan Lake.

Meyer said the Republicans were touting the raises that will be given to teachers in North Carolina, but he said the budget has additional cuts to the UNC System and Department of Public Instruction.

“They managed to get a raise for teachers by nickel-and-diming everything else in schools,” Meyer said.

Meyer said his other major concern was proposed legislation regulating coal ash cleanup in North Carolina.

You can listen to the full interview with Meyer below:


Orange County Public Library Buys New Equipment with Grant Money

Orange County Public Library received two grants from the State Library totaling to a little more than $68,000.

The library will use the money from one grant to buy assistive technology and the money from the second grant will go to developing their strategic plan for the next three years, which plans to build off the 2013-2016 plan.

The new equipment will allow library visitors to have more access to the library’s collection. Currently the library’s offerings are only six percent of its entire collection.

The new technology includes a stationary text-to-speech magnifier, a portable video magnifier, three high-definition handheld video magnifiers and assistive headsets for those who have trouble hearing.

Jason Richmond, the technology support and instruction librarian, said that the library’s conversations with disability advocacy groups gave them the direction to prepare for the grant proposal.

“Focus groups were very excited to hear that visitors with visual challenges may soon have access to an expanding number of library resources,” Richmond said in a release.

For more information on the Orange County Public Library visit here.