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On a strong bipartisan vote of 83-25, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed legislation this afternoon invalidating a recently-passed Charlotte City Council ordinance that would have forced private businesses to allow grown men to use restrooms, locker rooms, saunas, and other facilities normally designated for women and girls. The Senate followed-up later in the day with a unanimous vote in support of the bill — after that chamber’s liberal Democrats stormed off in a huff. (Editor’s Note: this dramatic move, in which Senate Democrats staged a walk-out and held a press conference, allowed them to conveniently avoid going on record as voting NO on a popular bill they rhetorically opposed. But that’s politics.)
Fortunately anyway, 11 conservative Democrats joined all the Republicans present on the House floor to approve House Bill 2, the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.”
“I’m glad that my colleagues joined together today to pass this bill that overrules the foolish and dangerous restroom ordinance passed by the city council and mayor of Charlotte,” said Speaker Tim Moore. “North Carolinians have spoken loud and clear that they are deeply concerned about what this ordinance means for the safety and expectation of privacy for women and children. In all the years I have served in the General Assembly I have never seen such a negative reaction to an ordinance passed by a municipality.”
“Prior to the Charlotte City Council thrusting this issue upon us,” Speaker Moore continued, “Our House and Senate oversight committees were busy preparing for the short session by discussing continued tax reform, Medicaid reform, regulatory reform, state employee salary adjustments, economic development and ways to improve the classroom. I am very glad we can now return our focus back to these important issues.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, it was revealed earlier this month that a leading proponent of the Charlotte ordinance allowing men to freely enter women’s restrooms, a prominent LGBTQ activist, also happens to be a convicted sex offender.
For his part, Attorney General Roy Cooper sided with the left-wing activists and released a video message criticizing today’s overwhelming bipartisan vote, saying that the common-sense privacy protections make “discrimination part of the law,” characterizing them as “shameful.” General Cooper is running for Governor.
The bill also clarifies existing law that forbids municipalities from mandating wage laws on private employers.
How local government works
According to The University of North Carolina’s non-partisan School of Government, local governments in North Carolina are creatures of the state legislature. That is, the North Carolina constitution grants the General Assembly broad authority to establish and deal with local governments essentially whenever and however it sees fit. From the School of Government’s 2007 report:
The North Carolina Constitution states that:
“(t)he General Assembly shall provide for the organization and government and the fixing of boundaries of counties, cities and towns, and other governmental subdivisions, and, except as otherwise prohibited by (the) Constitution, may give such powers and duties to counties, cities and towns, and other governmental subdivisions as it may deem advisable.” (Article VII, Section 1)
Thus, if the General Assembly wants to create a city, county, or other local governmental unit, it is free to do so. If it wishes to abolish a local government, or to merge it with another, or to impose particular obligations on it, it has almost unlimited power to do as it chooses. In sum, North Carolina is not a “home rule” state, as that term is commonly understood. Its local governments exist by legislative benevolence, not by constitutional mandate.
Under North Carolina’s system, the extent of the power of local governing boards to adopt rules to govern the city’s or county’s affairs or the life of the community depends on what the General Assembly authorizes. As creatures of the state legislature, local governments may act only if they have legislative permission to do so.