Once again, North Carolina is in the spotlight nationally this week over HB2 as a rumored “deal” to repeal the so-called “bathroom bill.” The HB2 repeal attempt fell through Wednesday night after hours of caucusing and heated debate at the NC General Assembly (NCGA).
What will be left out of or de-emphasized in most write-ups is that Democratic party leaders have either ignored or rejected potential compromise deals on at least four different occasions that could have led to either a broad amending of or full repeal of HB2.
Here’s some background on the attempts at a HB2 repeal.
The Charlotte Observer reported that a bipartisan group of Charlotte City Council (CLTCC) members went to Raleigh to meet with House Speaker Tim Moore to try to facilitate a deal where the council would repeal their ordinance in exchange for the state making significant changes to HB2.
In response, the Democrat-controlled council, led by Mayor Jennifer Roberts – and after heavy-duty lobbying by liberal LGBT groups – refused to put on the table the possibility of repealing the city’s controversial non-discrimination ordinance, which passed in February. The ordinance included a ban on sex-segregated facilities like showers, locker rooms, fitting rooms, and bathrooms in both public and private businesses.
Charlotte’s WBTV News reported that a bipartisan deal to broadly amend HB2 was axed after political strong-arming from then-candidate-for-governor Roy Cooper (emphasis added):
On Your Side Investigates has confirmed a group of up to ten House Democrats had originally signed on to support the bill. A number of people in that group changed their mind, though, after receiving calls from Cooper.
“We started losing Democrats,” the person involved in the negotiations said. “We were told Cooper was making personal phone calls to the ten Democratic members saying if they wanted to be on the team in November they needed to vote against the bill.”
According to the report, a Cooper spox denied the state’s then-attorney general pressured Democrat legislators against amending the bill.
The NC Restaurant and Lodging Association said in a press release they had “received assurances this week from legislative leadership” that they were ready to move on a repeal of House Bill 2 provided that the Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the CLTCC agreed to repeal their ordinance:
“NCRLA has received assurances this week from legislative leadership, that if the Charlotte City Council repeals (its nondiscrimination ordinance) at their meeting on Monday, the General Assembly is prepared to meet in special session as early as next week to repeal House Bill 2,” NCRLA president and CEO Lynn Minges said in a news release.
WBTV News reported that the 7 votes the council needed to proceed with repealing their ordinance were in place but the effort stalled after NC House Representative Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg) interfered and got two of the council members to change their votes (emphasis added):
North Carolina State Representative Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg) lobbied members of the Charlotte City Council against voting to repeal the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, which would have paved the way for a repeal of the controversial House Bill 2, multiple sources tell On Your Side Investigates.
A Democratic member of the legislature, who spoke on background to discuss the situation, confirmed Carney tied her opposition to the ordinance’s repeal directly to her desire to keep HB2 on the books so Democrats in close legislative races could use the bill as a wedge issue in November’s election.
In a surprise flip-flop from their September stance, the CLTCC voted on Monday the 19th – over a month after the election- to repeal their February ordinance as part of an alleged deal “brokered” by Gov.-Elect Cooper in an effort to motivate the NCGA for a HB2 repeal.
A special session was called by Gov. McCrory in response and Republican members of the House and Senate began informally caucusing on Tuesday in advance of the Wednesday special session.
For those of you wondering why the repeal of HB2 has always been made conditional on Charlotte repealing their ordinance, the reason is the fear that repealing HB2 first would prompt Charlotte to put the original ordinance back in place or other municipalities would attempt the same thing Charlotte did. Republican concerns about trustworthiness only increased after finding out the full repeal that was promised had not been done.
The CLTCC “fixed” this problem in an emergency meeting early Wednesday morning, but the ‘damage to the deal’ was already settling in, according to moderate Republican Senator Jeff Tarte in a lengthy explanation on his Facebook page.
Reports were also surfacing on social media of elected Democrat officials in other major North Carolina cities like Durham promising to put Charlotte-style Non-Discrimination Ordinances (NDO’s) on their books after HB2 was repealed, which would start this whole messy process all over again.
What little trust that Republican legislators in the House and Senate might have had that repealing HB2 would not lead to more ordinances like Charlotte’s crumbled, as Senate leader Berger explained in detail in a blistering presser after repeal efforts failed.
Republicans in the House couldn’t come to an agreement on a bill. Senate leader Berger proposed a simple bill that would repeal HB2, but put a moratorium (“cooling off period”) in place until next summer. That cooling off would allow the state legislature could work together on a comprehensive compromise bill without worrying that cities like Durham would carry through with the promises of some of their elected officials to put an NDO on their books like the one Charlotte just repealed.
Yet behind the scenes, Gov.-Elect Cooper – by his own admission – lobbied Senate Democrats hard against Berger’s bill just two days after insinuating in a statement that the deal to repeal HB2 was all but done.
In the end, not a single Democrat Senator voted in favor of the HB2 repeal they’d long called for. There were a number of Republicans who voted against it who weren’t in favor of repeal anyway (which is why Democrat votes were needed for the deal to work in both chambers). The House never held a vote. And eventually, everyone went home.
4 times there were deals on the table to amend HB2 or for a HB2 repeal.
4 times Democrats said no – 3 of those times came before the election, when knowingly sabotaging their own state’s economy and its hard-working people kept the bill in place as a political wedge which handsomely benefited Cooper’s campaign war chest and ultimately helped his election.
In their zeal to rush before the sympathetic media cameras and point fingers at Republican leaders for their “cowardice” in failing to repeal HB2, Democrats have no one to blame but one group: themselves.