The ‘Police Power’ of N.C. HB 2 is an Assault on the Working Poor

New North Carolina law exposes legislature’s disdain for social justice

RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina House Bill 2 (HB 2), otherwise known as the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, has caused a “kerfuffle” in the Tar Heel State.  At least, that’s how Garrison Keillor described it on “A Prairie Home Companion” this past weekend.

Obviously, Mr. Keillor, who was in Hickory last week after the North Carolina General Assembly wrapped up the extra session called to pass HB 2, was a bit understated in his description of national reaction to the new law. Passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Pat McCrory on March 23, the bill repeals an ordinance passed in February by the Charlotte City Council. In response to the legislature’s actions, national organizations and businesses have already begun boycotting the state.

That the spotlight is on the bill and its sponsors is good; however, it is essential that folks understand that this is not just a debate about the rights – or lack thereof – of transgender people to use restrooms and similar facilities. It is really about a larger issue – this legislature’s disdain for social justice. That is made apparent by the law’s attack upon working class people.

Certainly, the Republican Party is counting upon evangelical conservatives to reward them for the passage of HB 2 by re-electing them in November. But these same folks who fill church pews also work for a living. What they may not know – and what they almost certainly will not hear from church pulpits – is that HB 2 is an assault upon working people.

While Part I of the bill deals with the issue of transgender people using restrooms, Part II states the purpose of that section in stark and clear terms – “local governments preempted.” What was preempted? The right of local governments to raise the minimum wage within their jurisdictions or require the same of contractors dealing with them, along with other restrictions. That’s correct; the party of limited government just voted to usurp the rights of local municipalities.

This proves, of course, that the brouhaha over transgender people – while real – is still very much a smoke screen used by the GOP to disguise its hypocrisy. It seems that when the GOP says it’s for local control, what it really means is that it is for state’s rights. In short, Jim Crow for the LGBT community and for working class folks. It is a trend that began with depriving people of their voting rights and won’t stop until the GOP is stopped.

However, it won’t be easy. In explaining the purpose of the wage and hour provision, the bill says, “The General Assembly declares that the general welfare of the State requires the enactment of this law under the police power of the state.”

The “Police Power.” Wow. The people must really be a threat! Just exactly why a city council in Lenoir or Wilmington raising the minimum wage within its borders would require “ … the police power of the state” to be invoked isn’t clear. Nor is it clear how it would be invoked.

What to say then? Well, if you are working in a minimum wage job and suffer from the many indignities associated with being industrious – but still poor – and you’re angry, you’d better look in the mirror before casting blame. That’s because those folks you’re sending to Raleigh every two years care about only one thing – re-election. Frankly, Republicans are counting on your fear of people you probably know nothing about to blind you to the fact that when you vote for them, you vote against yourself.

How dumb do they think we are? You can answer that question in November.

© The Lenoir Voice, 2016 

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