Politics & Government

Charlotte says HB2 invalidates long-standing anti-drug program for contractors

ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

The city of Charlotte has ended a 20-year-old program that required contractors hired by the city to have anti-drug programs for its employees. The city said it believes such programs are prohibited under House Bill 2, the controversial legislation that primarily addressed LGBT legal protections.

HB2 also prohibits municipalities from “regulation or controlling a contractor’s employment practices,” according to an April 1 memo written by City Attorney Bob Hagemann.

This could have been in response to Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance passed in February, which would have barred the city from awarding contracts to companies that have been found to discriminate.

The Drug Free Workplace ordinance was passed by City Council members in September 1995. Minutes from the meeting 21 years ago show that Gov. Pat McCrory, then a city council member, was one of the ordinance’s biggest supporters.

In an appearance on “Meet the Press” Sunday, McCrory said the Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance was an example of government overreach. He said that during his time as mayor, “we didn’t impose new regulations on businesses.”

The drug-free workplace requirements were approved when McCrory was a council member, and he was elected as mayor later that year.

McCrory signed HB2 into law in March.

The ordinance required contractors to have a drug-free awareness program; notify the city of any contractor’s employee’s drug conviction; offer counseling for employees that have a drug problem.

Hagemann said he believes HB2 “invalidates” the ordinance.

County Commissioner Bill James said Thursday that Mecklenburg County believes that it can still require that contractors be drug-free. But it can’t mandate that the contractors provide specific programs.

“Government should not be ordering around private business (forcing them to have specific programs) but if a private business does work for taxpayers, the government does have the right to insure workers are not stoned (or drunk, or high, etc…..),” James said in an e-mail.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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