Rep. John Bell picked as new House GOP leader

John Bell

Rep. John Bell

House Republicans have selected Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, as their new majority leader.

Bell, who previously was the caucus’ majority whip, replaces former Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, who resigned earlier this summer.

The GOP caucus elected Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, to take Bell’s place as majority whip.

“I am excited for Reps. Bell and Arp to serve in these new roles,” House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a statement.  “The House caucus is proud to have elected these new leaders as we move toward November with a strong,  unified caucus.”

Federal Judge Puts HB2 On Hold

As most readers surely know, the North Carolina statute known as HB2 requires public agencies to assign users to multiple occupancy bathrooms, locker rooms, shower rooms, and similar facilities on the basis of biological sex. Several groups of plaintiffs have filed lawsuits challenging the law, and in May some of those plaintiffs filed a motion requesting a preliminary injunction that would temporarily block its enforcement.

Last week the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina granted their request. In a typically meticulous and carefully reasoned opinion, Judge Schroeder ordered that:

The individual transgender Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction on their Title IX claim is GRANTED. The University of North Carolina, its officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and all other persons acting in concert or participation with them are hereby ENJOINED from enforcing Part I of HB2 against the individual transgender Plaintiffs until further order of the court. 

This may appear to be a victory for the opponents of HB2, but it really isn’t.

The plaintiffs are challenging HB2 on two grounds: as a violation of Title IX of Civil Rights Act (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex) and as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In making their case for a preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs argued that they were likely to succeed on both grounds.

Judge Schroeder had little choice as far as the first of these is concerned. In a case decided earlier this year, the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit deferred to the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX. According to that interpretation the word “sex” actually means “gender identity.” Recognizing that he was bound by this precedent, Judge Schroeder found that:

Applicable Fourth Circuit law requires that DOE’s guidance defining “sex” to mean gender identity be accorded controlling weight when interpreting DOE’s Title IX regulations. Because Part I of HB2 prevents transgender individuals from using multiple-occupancy bathrooms and similar facilities based solely on the gender listed on their birth certificate, it necessarily violates DOE’s guidance and cannot be enforced.

However, on the basis of an exhaustive analysis of the relevant case law he rejected the plaintiff’s equal protection claim:

In sum, Supreme Court and Fourth Circuit precedent support the conclusion that physiological differences between men and women give rise to the privacy interests that justify segregating bathrooms, showers, and other similar facilities on the basis of sex. In addition, Plaintiffs admit that the vast majority of birth certificates accurately reflect an individual’s external genitalia. Although the correlation between genitalia and the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate is not perfect in every case, there is certainly a reasonable fit between these characteristics, which is what the law requires…. At this preliminary stage, and in light of existing case law, Plaintiffs have not made a clear showing that they are likely to succeed on their Equal Protection claim.

Judge Schroeder is surely right about what equal protection requires. The same cannot be said about the 4th Circuit’s decision to defer to DOD rule-makers regarding the meaning of “sex” under Title IX. It would be nice to think that the better argument will prevail when, as seems likely, this case (or one of the many related cases) reaches the Supreme Court. In reality, however, it probably depends entirely on who gets appointed between now and then. (File this under “missing justice Scalia.)

Redistricting: Making the proper comparisons

The John Locke Foundation is a longtime advocate of redistricting reform. Voters ought to choose their representatives — not the other way around.

That said, one element of popular media coverage of Monday’s unveiling of an alternate set of N.C. congressional election district maps deserves a clarification. (Actually, two elements deserve clarification: First, the former state Supreme Court chief justice’s name is Rhoda, not Rhonda.)

The maps highlighted just below the headline of the News & Observer‘s online story imply that Republican lawmakers drew bizarre 1st and 12th Congressional Districts as part of their scheme to gerrymander an electoral advantage in 2011. (Note: The original headline says “Experiment shows ‘better way’ for voting districts.” I cropped out “voting” to avoid posting an ad from the original site.)

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The problem with that implication — that Republicans originated the cringe-inducing 1st and 12th Districts — is that variations of these same crazy-looking districts date back to the early 1990s. Democrats originally drew those two districts to comply with a federal order to create two majority-minority districts. The same two districts survived in slightly altered form during the early 2000s. Republicans simply tweaked them in 2011.

Here’s the map drawn by Democrats for the 1992 election.


Here’s the map drawn by Democrats for the 2002 election.


Here’s the map drawn by Republicans for the 2012 election.


Note that in each map, the 1st District extends through multiple tentacles from its base in northeastern North Carolina, while the 12th District looks like a ribbon stretching from Durham to Gastonia in the 1990s and from Greensboro to Charlotte in the 2000s and 2010s.

If the N&O‘s goal was to show that the judge-drawn alternative plan is aesthetically superior to the GOP’s handiwork, the proper point of comparison is the map drawn earlier this year to comply with a court order throwing out the 2011 districts.

Here is that comparison. First, the newly enacted maps designed to elect 10 Republicans and three Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives.


Second, the maps created by a panel of former N.C. judges.


Does the second map look better than the first? That’s certainly a judgment call. But at least readers ought to have the opportunity to compare apples to apples.

Leef laments SEC silliness

George Leef’s latest Forbes column probes political correctness at the agency that oversees stock exchanges.

Would corporations operate better if their board members were chosen so as to ensure that women and major racial/ethnic groups were all appropriately represented? Many social activists believe so and their thinking has penetrated into the federal regulatory agency that oversees our stock exchanges – the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Back in 2009, the SEC instituted a requirement that publicly traded companies disclose plans they might have regarding the diversity of their boards of directors. That is to say, the racial, ethnic and gender characteristics of board members – as if those attributes were the essential, defining attributes of a person.

But now SEC Chairman Mary Jo White has concluded that the earlier rule was too soft, leading only o vague disclosures about board diversity. As we learn in this Wall Street Journal editorial, she wants a new rule mandating that firms “include in their proxy statements more meaningful board diversity disclosures on their members and nominees.”

Chairman White’s idea dovetails with the thinking of Canadian law professor Aaron Dhir, who has been crusading for rules to compel companies to consider “the socio-demographic composition of their boards” and of Representative Carolyn Mahoney of New York, who wants the SEC to force companies to identify each member of their boards according to gender, race, and ethnicity.

Advocating more diversity just for the sake of creating boards that “look like America” (as Bill Clinton famously described his cabinet) makes many people feel good. But Law professors, bureaucrats, and politicians don’t have much if any idea what business management entails, and they won’t suffer any of the costs if boards stocked with people chosen mainly to meet a quota push the company into poor decisions.

More Corporate Welfare

Of course.  Because we certainly couldn’t expect a company to ever just, you know, use its own money for investments.

Mars Inc. to invest $20M into old P&G site in eastern N.C.

Vance County Manager Jordan McMillan says county personnel have been going back and forth with Mars for some time on the investment.

“We’re still a little early on in this project,” he cautions, adding that discussions about possible incentives have begun, but nothing is final. And those incentives are purely for the investments Mars plans to make, not for any job additions at the site.

An Additional 500 Counties Nationwide Will Have One Obamacare Insurance Option In 2017

Vox reports the full story here.

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Soft skills are hard to find, say employers

Wall Street Journal today:

In a Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives last year, 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89% said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes. Many say it’s a problem spanning age groups and experience levels.

A LinkedIn analysis of its member profiles found soft skills are most prevalent among workers in the service sector, including restaurant, consumer-services, professional-training and retail industries.

To determine the most sought-after soft skills, LinkedIn analyzed those listed on the profiles of members who applied for two or more jobs and changed jobs between June 2014 and June 2015. The ability to communicate trumped all else, followed by organization, capacity for teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social savvy, creativity and adaptability.

Workers with these traits aren’t easy to come by, said Cindy Herold, who runs the Old Europe restaurant in Washington. In a moment of frustration, Mrs. Herold recently put a sign outside seeking workers with “common sense.”

“I can teach somebody how to slice and dice onions. I can teach somebody how to cook a soup. But it’s hard to teach someone normal manners, or what you consider work ethic,” she said.

Training new workers in technical skills takes time and resources employers say they are less willing to invest in workers who don’t have the soft skills to succeed in the long run.

Pay attention to the last two paragraphs, especially that last sentence. Mull their significance.

Longtime readers of our work at John Locke know about the crucial importance of overlooked soft skills. They have read about private job training charities like StepUp MinistryJobs for Life, STRIVE, etc. that emphasize teaching the soft skills that make people employable. Unlike local demagogues and dilettantes, they know having and being able to hold on to work is more important than being unemployable at “compassionate” wages.


90 NC counties may have only one Obamacare insurer

This is not necessarily breaking news—-insurers are pulling out of North Carolina’s 2017 Obamacare health insurance exchange, possibly leaving 90 counties—-that’s 90 percent—with only one exchange insurer:

Most North Carolinians — including those in the Triad — are projected to have just one insurer’s plans to choose from in the 2017 federal individual health exchange, according to a report by Kaiser Family Foundation.

Only Alamance is projected to have Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. and Cigna Healthcare of N.C. among the 14 counties in the Triad and Northwest N.C.

The nonprofit’s analysis, released Sunday, projected about 613,000 exchange enrollees statewide, about 1,000 fewer than for 2016.
Enrollees typically receive a federal tax credit to subsidize their monthly premium cost.

Perhaps the starkest 2017 change for North Carolina comes from projections of no enrollees having at least three insurer options in their counties, compared with 409,000 enrollees in 2016.

Instead, 80 percent of projected enrollees, or 490,000, likely will have only Blue Cross. That includes a projected 21,700 in Forsyth County and 101,800 in the Triad and Northwest N.C.

North Carolina is mentioned in the Fox news piece below reporting —-imagine this–that Obamacare exchange enrollments are falling way short of projections for 2017.

Funniest part of the Fox news report is the breaking news that President Obama will meet with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to discuss changes to Obamacare for 2018. That’s a nice sentiment, I reckon—our president is full of wonderful sentiments—but we all know it could be a radically different world in 2018 for a wide variety of reasons.