NC senators still mapping confirmation process, say HB2 repeal possible

Posted January 25

Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, speaks to reporters on the floor of the state Senate. Jan. 25, 2017.

— Senators have not yet determined what procedures they'll use to approve or reject Gov. Roy Cooper's cabinet picks, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger told reporters Wednesday.

"We're still working on the process we're going to employ as far as vetting those nominees," Berger, R-Rockingham, said after the Senate's floor session. That process, he said, should be ready to go sometime next week.

Before 2017, legislators already played a part in confirming certain gubernatorial appointments, such as special Superior Court judges. But during a December legislative session, the General Assembly passed a requirement that senators confirm the governor's picks to head his cabinet agencies. This year marks the first time that the Senate will conduct those reviews, and Berger signaled that it may be more rigorous than past confirmation hearings that have amounted to little more than meet and greets with a cursory review of a candidate's resume and potential conflicts.

"It's going to be a little more formalized process than what we've seen in the past," Berger said, refusing to elaborate further.

In the mean time, Cooper's cabinet nominees may serve until they are either rejected, approved or the legislature leaves town without taking action on their nominations.

Cooper is contesting the confirmation law in court.

House Bill 2 compromise possible

Asked about priorities for the session, Berger ticked off a list that included raising teacher pay, lowering taxes and continuing efforts to pare state regulations.

Several reporters asked if there would another attempt to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial measure passed last year dealing with LGBT rights and the use of bathrooms by transgender individuals. A repeal effort fell short in December among recriminations traded between Cooper, a Democrat, and Republican legislative leaders.

"I think it's possible for there to be some arrangement to address that issue. I think it's going to take compromise on both sides," Berger said, once again blaming Cooper for the failure of the December repeal effort.

Cooper and his fellow Democrats say that Republicans didn't offer a true repeal, while Republicans said the Charlotte City Council and House Bill 2 opponents did not act in good faith.

"One of the real issues that's still out there is what is Gov. Cooper's answer. What is the answer as to the question of whether we should allow men into women's restrooms, whether or not we should allow boys and girls to share locker facilities in schools?" Berger said. "Unless we are able to address that particular issue in a way that is consistent with how the people of North Carolina feel, I think it's going to be very difficult for us to reach a compromise."

While those remarks are nothing new, they illustrate the chasm in attitudes between those who support House Bill 2 and those working for its repeal.

The state law was passed in response to a now-repealed Charlotte ordinance that required businesses to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice.

Backers of House Bill 2 have argued that would allow men and boys to freely use restroom and locker room facilities set aside for girls and women, and they have raised the specter that sexual predators could use the law as cover to commit assaults, peeping or other crimes.

But those pushing against the law note those actions are already crimes and that it's discriminatory to equate transgender individuals to sexual predators. House Bill 2, they say, merely discriminates against LGBT people, particularly against transgender individuals who identify as a gender other than what's indicated on their birth certificates.

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  • Brendan Dillon Jan 25, 2017
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    Either HB2 is in effect or it isn't. What's the compromise? There is no middle ground to be had on this issue. Republicans want to have their cake and eat it too.