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Editor’s note: This article reflects comments made by legislators at a public event on June 20 in anticipation of the NBA’s decision to pull the all-star game out of Charlotte, which was not announced until a few hours after the article’s initial publication on June 21.
BLACK MOUNTAIN — North Carolina’s law restricting use of bathrooms by gender has damaged the state’s image and economy and will continue to do so if it’s not changed, two Western North Carolina legislators warned Wednesday.
Rep. John Ager and Sen. Terry Van Duyn, both members of the General Assembly’s Democratic minority, met with constituents at a town hall meeting in Black Mountain to discuss the failures and achievements of the recent legislative short session, which ended July 1. They also took the opportunity to drum up support for their reelection efforts.
The lawmakers said the passage of House Bill 2, which has drawn national attention to the state primarily for mandating that transgender people have to use the public restroom corresponding to their biological sex, will continue to negatively affect North Carolina.
Should the NBA make good on its threat to take the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, Van Duyn said other major sporting events and tournaments could follow. She said the legislation has already cost Asheville in the form of conferences that have canceled events in the area and retirees who have chosen to look elsewhere for housing.
Van Duyn said the General Assembly is ideologically “off-balance” and that legislation like H.B. 2 is “the perfect example” of laws that are the result of veto-proof Republican majorities in both chambers of the legislature.
Democrats gained three seats in the House in 2014, including Ager’s. Van Duyn said she hoped her party could gain four more in November to break the GOP’s veto-proof majority.
Van Duyn was also critical of some of the General Assembly’s actions on education, including a budget move to lock in $500 per-semester tuition fees at four public universities that was decided without consulting with the administration at those schools or the UNC system’s Board of Governors.
Ager applauded the state House’s defeat of a bill, introduced by former Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, that would have made significant changes to the way Asheville voters elect City Council members. Apodaca’s bill would have shifted Asheville to electing council members by districts, with an at-large mayor. The entire delegation, other than Apodaca, had voiced opposition to the bill, as had members of the City Council.
The bill’s failure surprised many General Assembly observers, particularly given Apodaca’s high-profile status as chairman of the powerful Senate rules committee. Despite that result, according to a previous report by Carolina Public Press, Asheville may some day elect council members by district anyway, though not on the terms that Apodaca had in mind.
Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer told CPP that the city will likely begin exploring how to draw district lines for a future election, with an eye on presenting the issue to voters eventually. Apodoca’s bill would have drawn up a map for districts without any input from city officials or voters.