Capitol Alert

California limits state travel to North Carolina over its ‘bathroom bill’

North Carolina’s controversial law overturning local government protections for gays and lesbians could cost it some business with California state agencies.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill that prohibits state agencies from compelling their employees to travel to states with laws that allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The effect is to ban state-funded travel to North Carolina and other states that may adopt policies like its HB2, the law that struck down local measures protecting gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination and prohibited cities from passing new anti-discriminatory policies.

The bill applies to the University of California and the California State University system, which may lead to restrictions on travel for college sports teams.

It also could limit travel for conferences and training. Employees still may be required to go to those states if they’re called for legal, legislative or safety reasons.

“Our zero-tolerance policy says there is no room for discrimination of any kind in California, and (this bill) ensures that discrimination will not be tolerated beyond our borders,” said the bill’s author, Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low of Campbell.

Five other states have taken similarly explicit steps to bar public employees from traveling to North Carolina since its Legislature in March adopted HB2.

The NCAA this month cited those state laws when it announced its decision to relocate seven championship events it had scheduled in North Carolina through 2017. Wired magazine has estimated that North Carolina has lost as much as $500 million in decreased tourism and canceled proposals for business expansion since its Legislature adopted the law.

It’s not clear how much money California spends on travel in North Carolina. Each state department manages its own travel, and legislative staff did not compile the sum in their discussions of Low’s bill.

The law may allow state employees to decline travel to about 20 other states that have passed so-called religious freedom measures. In Indiana, that kind of law was characterized as allowing private businesses to discriminate against gay people.

So far, North Carolina’s HB2 is the only statewide law that bans people from using bathrooms in government buildings that do not correspond with their biological sex.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton