Be There When Lightning Strikes

Politics

Set your text size: A A A

McGrady explains missed vote on HB2

State Rep. Chuck McGrady is not ready to commit to upholding or opposing HB2, the state law that bars government from establishing or mandating transgender bathroom accommodation and makes other changes governing LGBT protections in North Carolina.

Enacted by the Legislature in a quick one-day session, the law repealed an ordinance that the Charlotte City Council adopted in February allowing transgender men and women to use their bathroom of their gender identity. Supporters of the state law said that it was needed to protect women and girls in public restrooms. The reaction against HB2 has been widespread and costly as performers have cancelled appearances and businesses have called off expansion or relocation plans.

McGrady, in a legislative update to constituents, gives a long and complete history of his own missed votes during his five years in the General Assembly and explains that his missed vote on HB2 occurred because he had an excused absence based on vacation plans made before the Charlotte ordinance.

"In the last Long Session, I voted 98.2% of the time," he wrote. "There were 1099 recorded votes, and I voted 1063 times out of the 1082 votes for which I was eligible. What that means is that I had “excused absences” for 17 votes that I missed and, I didn’t have excused absences for 19 votes that I missed."

McGrady goes on to address the political chatter that he must have ducked the HB2 vote because he's also far more more moderate than much of the House leadership on social issues, including gay marriage.

"In my five-plus years in the legislature, I’ve only intentionally skipped voting on two occasions," he said. "The first was a vote on the so-called Marriage Amendment, an amendment to the NC Constitution prohibiting same-sex marriages. I didn’t want to vote “yes” because I believed the amendment would ultimately be declared unconstitutional (which it has been). At the same time, I didn’t want to vote “no” because I knew my constituents would support the amendment, which they did overwhelmingly in the subsequent election. Upon being told by both then-Speaker Thom Tillis and then-Minority Leader Joe Hackney that my one vote wouldn’t make a difference in the outcome, I simply skipped the vote—avoiding the dilemma."

"Interest in my missed votes only recently spiked when the media and some of my constituents and friends noted that I’d missed the votes on H 2 [Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act], otherwise known as the Charlotte Bathroom bill. While some knew that I’d had an excused absence during the entire one-day Special session, few knew why I took an excused absence. ... Some assumed, based on my missing the vote on the Marriage Amendment that I simply didn’t want to vote. However, in that earlier instance I hadn’t requested an excused absence, and I’d actually sat in the House Chamber during the entire debate. This time, I didn’t miss just one vote; I missed eleven votes relating to the bill. Along with almost a dozen of my colleagues, I’d gotten an excused absence.

"So what is the real story?

My wife and I were out of the country on a long planned vacation when the Special Session occurred. We booked the trip three months before the Special Session and even before the Charlotte City Council had passed the ordinance. When we left the country, the Special Session hadn’t been called, and it wasn’t even clear that a special session would be called.

"With legislative sessions running longer and longer, my family and I have had problems scheduling vacations. In 2015, my wife and I had to completely re-book a vacation because the session ran until October 1. After that experience, I realized that I might not know when the session would end in 2016 but I surely knew when it would begin—in another week on Monday, April 25. Therefore, I figured taking a vacation before the session was a safe way to avoid what had happened in 2015 and in previous years. Oh well, so much for that thought.

"That leaves one unanswered question: With the Short Session starting in a week and with potential votes on amending or even repealing H 2 possible, what is my position on the bill? Well, I’ve not weighed into debate on H 2 because I feel it would be inappropriate for me to criticize any of my colleagues on either side of the debate since I’d missed the Special Session and not heard any of the debate. As yet, I’ve only read news reports about the new law. I haven’t yet read the new law, and I haven’t read the Charlotte ordinance.

"I figure I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it . . . and not before."