Raleigh, N.C. — Ask Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger about a controversial religious freedom bill, and he's more than likely to talk about other measures the General Assembly has passed since Republicans took the reins in 2011.
"My question is, Wells Fargo announced yesterday that North Carolina's economy was really moving. I'd like to see some stories on that," Berger said, touting changes to tax rates and regulatory reforms that he contends lead to the brightening employment picture.
So, would the North Carolina's Religious Freedom Restoration Act measures, which have been filed in both the House and the Senate, contribute to that economic boom?
"I think what we've done over the past four years would be the thing that has put us in a position where our economy is performing most other states," said Berger, R-Rockingham. "I think what we are going to be focused on, as we have been over the past four years, is doing things that will move us in that direction. That means we're going to deal with economic development, continuing tax reform, our regulatory climate, all of those kinds of things."
So, it doesn't sound like the RFRA is part of that group, does it?
"It's been filed. A decision will be made as to whether or not we move it forward," Berger said.
If that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, it's not. It's similar to an answer House Speaker Tim Moore gave on the same topic Monday night. Moore said the House bill was likely to sit in committee until Republican lawmakers decided whether to move the measure.
A similar bill passed in Indiana has caused a national firestorm and threats from major businesses to relocate out of the state.
In North Carolina, a new business coalition called Compete North Carolina has formed to oppose the bill. Although members of the group have not made themselves known yet, a news release arguing against the North Carolina bill was distributed by Theresa Kostrzewa, an influential lobbyist known for participating in Republican political causes.
The release cites companies such as AT&T, Angie's List and Apple.
"RFRA will hurt North Carolina's reputation as a great state to do business, hinder our ability to attract talented workers and drive business out of the state," the release said.