But new governor calls for repeal of law regulating transgendered bathroom use
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
RALEIGH (CFP) — In his inaugural address, incoming North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued a call to end the contentious politics that have bedeviled the start in recent years, but he also made it clear that he would push for repeal of a bill that limited use of public restroom facilities for transgendered people.
“The people of this state are tired of yesterday’s politics. You expect and deserve public servants who reject cynicism, who don’t succumb to political paralysis, who negotiate differences in good faith,” Cooper said.
“I don’t think anyone believes that North Carolina families sit around the kitchen table every night thinking that their lives would change for the better if only the legislature would spend its time on the hot-button social issues of the day,” he said.
“People have bigger concerns, like why they haven’t gotten a raise in eight years or why the cost of health insurance is too much to bear or if they can afford to send their kids to college.”
Because of a snowstorm that paralyzed North Carolina, Cooper delivered his January 7 inaugural address on television, rather than to an outdoor crowd as initially planned.
Cooper, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory by just 10,277 votes out of nearly 4.8 million cast, which was the nation’s closest gubernatorial election this year and the only one that flipped from Republican to Democratic.
The most contentious issue in that election was House Bill 2 — passed by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by McCrory — which required transgendered people to use bathrooms in public facilities consistent with their birth gender, rather than the gender with which they identify.
Cooper, who was attorney general at the time, opposed the measure and refused to defend it in court. In the wake of the bill’s passage, a number of major companies have dropped plans to move or expand in North Carolina, and the NBA, NCAA and ACC have all pulled sporting events out of the state.
After the election, the legislature met in special session to consider repealing the law, but Republican supporters of the law scuttled the effort. Cooper made in clear in his inaugural address that he would keep trying.
“This law has isolated and hurt a lot of people, damaged our state’s reputation and cost our economy hundreds of millions of dollars that could have paid our teachers and firefighters or built new highways,” he said.
“There are enough bipartisan votes in the legislature right now to fully repeal HB2 with no strings attached. This is not complicated. In fact, it’s very simple. Let them vote.”
Cooper will face a legislature dominated by Republicans. In the Senate, the GOP holds 35 seats to 15 for Democrats; in the House, Republicans have 74 seats and Democrats 46. Those margins are enough to override Cooper’s vetoes, which only requires a three-fifths majority in the Tar Heel State.
However, in late November, a federal judge struck down the state’s legislative districts on the grounds that they were improperly gerrymandered using racial considerations and ordered the legislature to draw new maps.
Unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, new elections for the entire General Assembly will have to be held in 2017, which could allow Democrats to gain back some ground.
After the election, the legislature also passed measures to limit the number of political appointments Cooper can make and require that his cabinet picks to be approved by the legislature. Cooper has gone to court to challenge those new laws.
Cooper, 59, from Nash County in eastern North Carolina, served four terms as attorney general before seeking the governorship, the second longest tenure in that office in state history.