Politics & Government

Should ex-governors in North Carolina get state police protection?

NC Gov. Pat McCrory addressed the media during a news conference at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department headquarters on Thursday, September 22, 2016.
NC Gov. Pat McCrory addressed the media during a news conference at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department headquarters on Thursday, September 22, 2016. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Two months after former Gov. Pat McCrory encountered a crowd of rowdy protesters, an N.C. senator has introduced a measure that would provide state protection to former elected officials.

The bill from Republican Sen. Dan Bishop of Charlotte also would extend penalties for assaults against current officials to former officials.

In January, a crowd of protesters followed McCrory down an alley in Washington chanting “shame” and “anti-gay bigot” at the governor who signed House Bill 2. The encounter was captured on video by one of the protesters and went viral.

Bishop was a prime sponsor of the law, passed in response to a Charlotte ordinance extending anti-discrimination protections to the LGBT community. HB2 nullified that and bars similar ordinances.

“SB 229 will modestly extend the coverage of the existing statute to former officials for one year after leaving office,” Bishop said in a statement. “…This extension of an existing, well-structured law is a prudent step to deter and prevent harm from the targeting of former officials as they transition back to private life.”

In a January blog post, Bishop said the incident showed that “lines are being crossed.” Former governors, he wrote, “never faced riotous mobs in their post-service, private lives, without personal security.”

SB 229 would allow a former governor to request and receive the protection of a Highway Patrol officer “on an occasional basis” for a year after leaving office. It would extend the penalty for assaulting elected officials – now a felony – to former officials.

Critics had expressed concern that the bill might try to criminalize criticism of former politicians.

“We’re glad to see that the bill doesn’t seek to criminalize people’s right to criticize politicians in public,” said Mike Meno, a spokesman for the state ACLU.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

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