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Friday, April 15, 2016

HB2: "We were for it after we were against it."

Richardson (top); Bell (below)

From NPR’s Morning Edition website today:

It's Possible N.C. 'Bathroom Law' Will Be Repealed, State Rep. Bell Says
Audio will be available later today.
April 15, 20165:15 AM ET
Heard on Morning Edition

Renee Montagne talks with N.C. House Democrat Larry Bell about a call from a constituent that's made Bell rethink his "yes" vote in support of the state's controversial transgender bathroom measure.

“Since our hasty vote on HB2, I have been haunted by the fact that in one rushed action, I undermined a lifetime of fighting against those who would demonize a group of citizens to gain political advantage and to advance an unjust agenda.”

Richardson, a successful lawyer and apartment complex developer, served two terms in the House in the 1990s and was appointed last September to fill a vacancy. He is running for a full term in 2016.

Eleven House Democrats- a quarter of the caucus- voted for HB2. All are from eastern North Carolina, and many hold seats clustered around the Fayetteville-Fort Bragg metro area, with its high concentration of conservative, military-related voters.

Bell and Richardson saw a popular, free pass vote and took it, along with their $104 per diem. Bell told NPR all he read of the bill was the popular bits his conservative constituents would like.

Bell, 76, is a former House majority whip who has been in public service over half a century. He began as a Sampson County school teacher in 1961; made principal in 1976,  assistant superintendent in 1985; superintendent in 1990, and spent a decade on the county commission while serving as superintendent. In the March 30 edition of IndyWeek, he explained his vote this way:

"It was my understanding that [the ordinance] changed the way people were allowed to use restrooms, and I was not convinced that the present system we use now was broken. I thought men go to men's bathroom, and ladies go to the ladies', and I don't see why Charlotte needed to change that. ...

"I am African-American, and, to talk about discrimination, I know about that. I could write a book about it, so it's not anything that deals with a race situation. If you're born a male or female, I don't see how that can be discriminatory unless you want to talk to God about it. Males go to the male restrooms; females go to female ones. ...

"I did not think we should be dealing with that [in a special session] at all, because I didn't think it was an emergency situation we should have been coming to Raleigh for ... . [Republicans] added other things into it—other parts of it—that was discrimination against businesses and so forth."

So he voted for it anyway.

Now Bell and Richardson get the best of all worlds. They voted for the popular bits of HB2, and now, in the blowback, repent (Bell told NPR a call from a gay student of his changed his mind). Now- still in the minority, they can profitably blame the Republican majority for overreach on the unpopular bits- however one defines that- and call, without effect, for its repeal.

Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, for their parts, continue to pile scorn upon opposition to HB2 and insist their veto-proof majorities will do what they are told.

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