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This North Carolina Bill Should Be Getting More Attention than Bathrooms

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North Carolina’s eminent domain policies are some of the most menacing in the country. HB3 is trying to change that.

North Carolina House Bill 2 was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory in March of last year. The bill required individuals to use only the restrooms in government buildings that corresponded to the sex listed on their birth certificate.

As trivial and as such a bill may have seemed at first glance, it sparked a national controversy on bathroom use for transgender people, a demographic that comprises of 0.003% of the population in North Carolina, according to Time’s analysis on people affected by the bill and the most recent NC census.

In the 2016 North Carolina gubernatorial election, McCrory lost to Roy Cooper by a razor-thin margin. North Carolina was a crucial swing state that cast its 16 delegates for Donald Trump, yet the GOP lost the governorship. The negative press and misinformation that McCrory received from HB 2 may well have cost him the election as suggested by a Raleigh News and Observer op-ed.

HB 2 has prompted a national discussion on civil liberties regarding the LGBTQ community. But there is another important North Carolina bill that may have a far greater impact on civil liberties in North Carolina.

Discussion about HB3 has paled in comparison to the frenzy that surrounded HB2. While you still see plenty of  bumper stickers satirizing HB2 on North Carolina’s roads, you would be hard pressed to find even one motorist with “Pass HB 3″ on the back of his car.

House Bill 3 was introduced this January. The Bill proposes a Constitutional Amendment which reads: “Private property shall not be taken by eminent domain except for a public use. Just compensation shall be paid and shall be determined by a jury at the request of any party.”

Needless to say, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”  Seizing private property for private use is out of the question according to the US Constitution. But that did not keep the Supreme Court from ruling in Kelo v. City of New London (2005) that the involuntary transfer of private property to another private entity was permissible if it benefited the economic interests of the community.

In 2007, the Institute for Justice published a report card for the eminent domain laws for each of the 50 states. North Carolina received a “C-“ by their criteria. Unfortunately, there has not been a more recent comprehensive study yet published.

According the same Institute for Justice study, 42 states including North Carolina have passed laws to curb the abuse of eminent domain for private development since Kelo, as of 2007. Yet, as the study notes, these laws typically include a “blight clause” which excludes public health or safety concerns, an exemption, according to the study, which has been historically abused by various municipalities.

This February, HB3 went through the NC House by an overwhelming majority. It has been read once by the Senate but has been deferred to the Committee on Rules and Operation in the Senate.

HB 3 has not seen the NC Senate floor since February.

A firmly worded constitutional amendment such as the one proposed in HB 3 may be the only surefire way to prevent cronyism in the form of eminent domain powers.

Political scientists, such as Michael Munger in a short Learn Liberty video , suggest that Kelo exemplifies how the interests of majorities can lead to injustice to individuals, whether the injustice be social or economic.

Whether unrestricted use of public bathrooms by transgender people—especially in non-governmental buildings—is such a case is unclear. HB 3, however, would prevent the tyranny of the majority in North Carolina once and for all and prevent private parties from be deprived of their property. 

Hans Riess graduated from Duke University with a degree in mathematics and is working towards a PhD in electrical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He is interested in applying concepts from mathematics to theories of optimal political decision-making.

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