Politics & Government

NC’s GOP lawmakers blame Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts for PayPal loss

ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

North Carolina’s Republican leaders on Tuesday blamed Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts for the decision by PayPal to drop its plans to open a new Charlotte operations center that would have created 400 jobs.

Last month state lawmakers passed House Bill 2, known as HB2, as a way to stop an expanded Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance from taking effect this month. Critics said the city’s ordinance would have allowed men posing as transgender women to enter women’s restrooms or showers.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore called it “a radical bathroom policy” by the Democratic mayor and City Council.

“The governor warned her the legislature would take immediate action to protect North Carolina families,” they said in a joint statement. “If Jennifer Roberts, (state Attorney General) Roy Cooper and the far-left Political Correctness Mob she’s unleashed really care about the economic future of her city, they’ll … start telling the truth about this commonsense bathroom safety law.”

Charlotte Republican Rep. Dan Bishop, who helped draft the law, said PayPal’s decision was “not about HB2.”

“It is instead about a frenzy that the mayor and her allies on City Council have whipped up,” he said. “I think she might consider that she stop calling in airstrikes on her own position.”

Asked if he and fellow legislators bore any responsibility, Bishop said, “I don’t have any further comment.”

Roberts said she was troubled by PayPal’s decision.

“I urge the state to take responsibility for its harmful actions and to listen to its business constituency and quickly find a legislative remedy to HB2 before more jobs are lost,” she said.

Other Democrats blamed Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature for the job loss.

“The threat that HB 2 poses to jobs and our economy is no longer a possibility; it’s a reality,” Cooper, who’s challenging McCrory, said in a statement. “These are new, better paying jobs North Carolina won’t get because Gov. McCrory has put his political ideology above all else. It’s time to reverse course and … undo the damage.”

McCrory and other Republicans have downplayed the threat of job loss. “I have not had one company say they’re moving out of North Carolina,” he told a TV station last month.

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said the law is designed to protect women and children.

“If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one women from being molested or assaulted, then it was worth it,” he said in a statement. “If a corporation … does not see the worth of our children in the same light, then I wish them well as they do business somewhere else.”

House Minority Leader Larry Hall called HB2 “a political stunt” Republicans used to shore up their conservative base. He said the economic impact of PayPal’s decision will go well beyond the 400 lost jobs.

“There’s no doubt that all major employers create additional rings of small businesses,” the Durham Democrat said. “The real question is how many jobs are really being lost and affected by the loss of PayPal.”

Andy Munn, the House speaker’s deputy chief of staff, cited six Democratic attempts between 2003 and 2009 – when Democrats controlled the General Assembly – to add sexual orientation or gender identity to state anti-discrimination law. None got out of committee.

Colin Campbell of the (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.

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