News Briefs April 6, 2017

NC “Bathroom Bill” Repealed

On Thursday, March 30, North Carolina lawmakers passed legislation, which Governor Roy Cooper then signed, to repeal the state’s controversial “bathroom bill” in an attempt to reconcile relationships with businesses, convention centers and sports organizations. Both the left and right are criticizing this compromise, questioning the future of LGBTQ rights in the state.

The repealed bill, known as House Bill 2 (HB2), required transgender people to use the bathrooms, changing rooms and showers in public buildings that corresponded to the sex on their birth certificates (NBC News, “North Carolina Governor Signs Bill Replacing Transgender Bathroom Law,” 3.30.2017). Former governor Pat McCrory signed the bill March 2016. Since then, it has elicited backlash from numerous individuals and organizations (The New York Times, “Bathroom Law Repeal Leaves Few Pleased in North Carolina,” 3.30.2017).

Performers like Bruce Springsteen cancelled concerts, businesses halted expansions and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Atlantic Coast Conference and the National Basketball Association moved high-profile events because of this bill. This week, the NCAA warned North Carolina lawmakers that the state could lose the opportunity to host championship games through 2022 if they continue to discriminate. Losing these games could mean forfeiting millions of dollars in revenue (The New York Times, “Bathroom Law Repeal Leaves Few Pleased in North Carolina,” 3.30.2017).

Republican Representative Scott Stone urged his colleagues to vote for the revised bill to escape HB2’s negative economic consequences. “We are impeding the growth in our revenue, in our ability to do more things for tourism, for teacher pay, while we have this stigma hanging over,” he said. “The time has come for us to get out of the spotlight for negative things. You can’t go anywhere on this planet without somebody having heard of HB2 and having some perception about it” (CBS, “North Carolina Governor Signs Legislation Rolling Back “Bathroom Bill,” 3.30.2017).

Other political leaders echoed Stone’s thoughts. Governor Cooper commented, “[This compromise] begins to repair our reputation.” He added, “It wasn’t a perfect deal or my preferred solution, but an important first step in our state” (The New York Times, “North Carolina Governor Signs Repeal of Bathroom Law,” 3.30.2017).

The Senate approved the revised bill by a vote of 32-16 and the House later passed it 70-48. This new bill calls for the repeal of HB2, prevents local governments from enacting non-discrimination ordinances until 2020 and leaves bathroom regulations to state lawmakers (CBS, “North Carolina Governor Signs Legislation Rolling Back “Bathroom Bill,” 3.30.2017). Individuals from both sides of the political spectrum oppose these orders, believing that they either do too much or too little for the transgender community.

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins was one dissenter who believed that bill did too much for transgender rights. He commented, “It does signal that elected officials are ultimately willing to surrender to the courts and the NCAA on matters of public policy and safety” (The Washington Post, “North Carolina Governor Signs Bill Repealing and Replacing Transgender Bathroom Law Amid Criticism,” 3.30.2017). Republican Senator Dan Bishop added, “This bill is at best a punt. At worst it is a betrayal of principle” (CBS, “North Carolina Governor Signs Legislation Rolling Back ‘Bathroom Bill,’” 3.30.2017).

On the other side of the debate stood LGBTQ activists who believed the revised bill is just as discriminatory as HB2. President of the Human Rights Campaign Chad Griffin commented, “This new law does not repeal HB2. Instead, it institutes a statewide prohibition on equality by banning nondiscrimination protections across North Carolina and fuels the flames of the anti-transgender hate. Each and every lawmaker who supported this bill betrayed the LGBTQ community” (The Washington Post, “North Carolina Governor Signs Bill Repealing and Replacing Transgender Bathroom Law Amid Criticism,” 3.30.2017). Director of NC Policy Watch Chris Fitzsimon added, “That, to me, is astonishing, that we’re going to make L.G.B.T. people wait another four years to be protected from being fired because they’re gay” (The New York Times, “Bathroom Law Repeal Leaves Few Pleased in North Carolina,” 3.30.2017).

No matter which side one takes in this debate, it is undeniable that North Carolina’s finances suffered from HB2. The Associated Press released an analysis this week estimating that it would cost the state more than $3.7 billion lost in business in the next 12 years (The New York Times, “Bathroom Law Repeal Leaves Few Pleased in North Carolina,” 3.30.2017).

—Hanna Stasiuk, Guest Reporter

VSA Special Funds Frozen

On Tuesday, April 4, VSA Chair of Finance Shahid Naeem announced that until further notice, all special purpose funds were frozen. Special purpose funds refer to Collaboration, Senate Discretionary, Conference, Community and Speakers funds. The capital fund, however, will not be frozen, as it is endowed.

There were several factors that led to the freeze. Primarily, there was a large difference between the 2016-17 budget and the student activities fee revenue collected this year. In addition, Naeem explained, “VSA orgs have amassed a significant amount of debt over a period of several years that was concealed with the help of dashboard errors/trickery but mainly through the existence of several ‘black hole’ accounts where a majority of this debt was aggregated. These accounts ran hugely in the red, rolling over each year and allowing the rest of the budget to appear more or less normal. It appears this has been going on for years.” As a result of this, some organizations have racked up more than $50,000 of debt during the past few years. While the 2015-16 fiscal year budget surplus was expected to make up for this debt, it turned out that the ostensible surplus was merely a result of the masking of those debts.

Naeem emphasized that this measure is not meant to be punitive, but merely pragmatic, as what remains of the 2016-17 special purpose fund may have to go to cover funds left unaccounted for by the debt.

Since they have already been allocated, the budgets of most student organizations will not be frozen. However, organizations that are overspending their budget will have their funds frozen (with the exception of orgs previously given permission to spend in the red or those with pre-approved special purpose fund allocations).

Naeem concluded, “I understand that calling this inconvenient and tough for everyone involved is an understatement. This issue is a threat to the entire budget, which means it is a threat to each and every organization on campus–not just this year but every year in the future as well. It would be easy to walk away from this and not address the current situation, or enact softer measures. However, by taking these hard steps immediately, we have the opportunity to fix something that has gone on unnoticed or unchallenged for years and finally right the ship for next fall. I also ask for your patience in resolving this. Please know that everyone involved in VSA Finance is working as hard as possible to resolve this with minimal impact for orgs.”

—Laurel Hennen Vigil, News Editor

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