Yet another HB2 repeal plan vanishes

Posted March 28
Updated March 29

— As has happened repeatedly in recent months, what appeared as a deal to repeal House Bill 2 was only a mirage Tuesday and vanished within minutes of being announced.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore held a 6:30 p.m. news conference to say legislative Republicans had agreed in principle with a proposal offered by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to roll back the controversial state law limiting LGBT rights and transgender access to public bathrooms.

But Cooper denied ever making such a proposal, and the news conference and a subsequent news conference by House Minority Leader Darren Jackson quickly devolved into yet another episode of finger-pointing.

"I think it's clear the idea is that they're not going to be able to get this fixed. They can't get the votes in their caucus to fix it. They're unwilling to join with Democrats to fix it. So, they want to pass a bill and make the governor veto it and lay the blame at his feet when they can't fix it," said Jackson, D-Wake.

House Bill 2 was enacted just over a year ago in response to a Charlotte ordinance that would have required businesses to allow transgender people to use the public bathroom of their choice. The state law not only nullified the Charlotte ordinance, it blocked cities from dictating bathroom access policies to businesses and required transgender people to use public bathrooms in schools and other government buildings that matched their birth gender. It also set a statewide nondiscrimination policy that excluded the LGBT community and prohibited cities and counties from extending such protections to them.

Criticism of the law has rained down on North Carolina for months, with businesses scrapping planned expansions, entertainers canceling concerts, organizations moving conventions out of state and athletic events, including the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, being shifted elsewhere.

The NCAA is set to decide this week on venues for championships in various sports through 2022 and has repeatedly said North Carolina sites won't be considered if House Bill 2 remains on the books because the organization wants to "assure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for all those watching and participating in our events."

Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance executive director Scott Dupree said earlier Tuesday that someone "very close to the NCAA" told him the state had 48 hours to repeal the law or face being blacklisted for the next five years.

"The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022," Dupree said in a statement.

House Speaker Tim Moore responded Tuesday that lawmakers wouldn't be "bullied" by the NCAA.

"I really don't think the NCAA ought to be trying to shape the agenda of our state," said Moore, R-Cleveland. "We're going to do what we think is right by the state of North Carolina."

He reiterated that any deal would have to have the backing of a majority of House Republicans.

"One thing we've made clear as Republicans is that we're not going to back away from the bathroom safety and the protection of privacy, those things," he said. "There appears to be some movement now on the part of some Democrats acknowledging that, OK, they know we're not going to back off of that.

"One thing we are not going to do is just an outright repeal that leaves nothing in place to keep this from happening again," he added.

Hours later, Moore and Berger were outlining a proposal they said Cooper had made last Thursday that would repeal House Bill 2, prevent cities from making bathroom and locker room access rules, allow local nondiscrimination ordinances consistent with federal guidelines – federal law doesn't provide protections for the LGBT community – and permit lawsuits by people who claim their "rights of conscience" are being infringed.

"(The governor) now denies he made the proposal, so we've got to figure out where we are," Berger said less than two minutes into his news conference. "We were prepared to have him work with the Democrats to get Democratic support, and we were going to work with our caucus to get Republican support for the proposal."

He later acknowledged that the proposal actually came from businesspeople working as intermediaries between Cooper and legislative Republicans on the issue.

But he provided an email string about the proposal that included William McKinney, Cooper's chief counsel, and Ned Curran, chairman of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, to demonstrate Cooper was in the loop about the plan. Ken Eudy, one of Cooper's senior advisers, was copied on the emails.

Berger and Moore said they had been discussing the proposal for five days with other legislative leaders and were "taken aback" by Cooper's disavowal of the proposal.

Cooper spokesman Ford Porter issued a statement about 30 minutes later, calling the news conference a "political stunt."

"It's frustrating that Republican leaders are more interested in political stunts than negotiating a compromise to repeal HB2. While Governor Cooper continues to work for a compromise, there are still issues to be worked out, and Republican leaders' insistence on including an Indiana-style RFRA provision remains a deal-breaker," Porter said. "Any compromise must work to end discrimination, repair our reputation and bring back jobs and sports, and a RFRA is proven to do just the opposite."

RFRA is shorthand for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and Porter was referencing a short-lived 2015 Indiana law that would have allowed people to cite their religious beliefs in refusing to accommodate same-sex couples. The legislature quickly approved protections for the LGBT community under intense pressure from businesses and the NCAA.

Jackson said he would have been made aware of any potential deal, so he doesn't believe the one Berger and Moore described ever existed. In fact, he said, a 6:30 p.m. meeting at the Executive Mansion had been set for Cooper, Berger, Moore, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue and Jackson to discuss a way to repeal House Bill 2.

A deal was in place a week ago that would have cleared the House, Jackson said, but it fell apart when Republican leaders couldn't hold their caucus together.

The revised version of House Bill 186, a repeal proposal sponsored by Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, would have allowed opponents of any local nondiscrimination ordinance to gather signatures to put the ordinance up for a vote as a ballot referendum through November 2018.

Forty of the 46 House Democrats had agreed to support the bill, Jackson said, and he was told the Republicans had 30 votes for it. But it never made it to a committee vote.

"The rug got pulled from under us again," he said, clearly exasperated. "You cannot negotiate with these people. ... They tell you you have a deal, and you shake on it. Then it changes."

Berger and Moore said it's unclear whether the proposal they outlined would be rolled out for a vote, saying they had expected to have a bipartisan deal in place.

"If that's not the case, it's a game-changer," Moore said.


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  • Nathaniel Lincoln Mar 29, 5:22 p.m.
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    Since you know so much on the subject I'm sure you know 40% of transgendered are also suicidal. This is a mental health issue and certainly a lifestyle that should not be encouraged on anyone you truly care about .The comparisons to the civil rights of African Americans in the 60s make me really angry and I'm not black just angry for black people who have to support this garbage to tow the party line . you know most disagree outright with the comparison .

  • Nathaniel Lincoln Mar 29, 5:12 p.m.
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    Yes and Run for reelection! MAGA!!

  • William Sherman Mar 29, 3:01 p.m.
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    Oh please----spare us...Because we have one party stronger than the other??? How then would you characterize the state of North Carolina for the 100 plus years that the Democrats had almost absolute power in our government???

  • Lamario Kelly Mar 29, 2:26 p.m.
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    It is not much, but the thing is it has been happening for years and years and years prior to this law. So what happens with transgender women that are now wanting to be men, how does it look with a transgender woman going into the woman's room; issues...

  • Teddy Fowler Mar 29, 2:23 p.m.
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    Something to think about concerning all this HB2 stuff.... http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2017/03/28/this-was-totally-a-man-moms-disneyland-restroom-tale-goes-viral/

  • Ian Jones Mar 29, 1:17 p.m.
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    Actually, North Carolina is no longer a representative democracy. It ranks right along with Iran and Venezuela. http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article122593759.html
    A healthy democracy does not vest the overwhelming majority of power in one party when there is nearly an equal split between the two major parties. This is due primarily to gerrymandering. If you want a healthy democracy and less battles over issues like HB2, end gerrymandering. There is a petition calling for a non-partisan redistricting commission. http://endgerrymanderingnow.org/petition/

  • William Patterson Mar 29, 1:01 p.m.
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    Moore and Berger need to vanish.....

  • Ian Jones Mar 29, 1:01 p.m.
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    View quoted thread


  • Mike Luddy Mar 29, 12:24 p.m.
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    Interesting article out yesterday - state of CA pays for a sex change for a man in prison to become a woman, but then denies him the use of a razor for shaving. He can have all the body parts, but with that full beard, he doesn't quite look the part. Will they come up with a procedure so men won't grow facial hair next? LOL

  • Mike Luddy Mar 29, 12:21 p.m.
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    Is it really asking too much that little girls not have to share a public bathroom with grown men?