Following the North Carolina General Assembly’s surprise rejection of a repeal of House Bill 2, leaders throughout the state’s business community are back at square one, dealing with a controversial law many large companies have opposed.
The Charlotte Chamber said Thursday that it’s hopeful a repeal of the law limiting local protections for LGBT individuals can happen soon, possibly when the legislature reconvenes in January.
“The Charlotte Chamber’s position is simple and clear: the North Carolina General Assembly needs to repeal HB2,” Chamber CEO Bob Morgan said in a statement. He commended the Charlotte City Council for repealing its ordinance protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination “in a good faith effort to bring about the end of this law.”
But there’s already evidence of fallout from the NCGA’s special session. The Business History Conference announced Thursday it was pulling its 2018 annual meeting from Charlotte over HB2 and the rejection of a repeal of the measure. The conference was to take place at the Charlotte Marriott City Center; it will now be at an Embassy Suites in Baltimore.
“Consultation with the BHC’s membership and leadership showed strong sentiment against the planned North Carolina location, as many would not or could not attend a conference in the state so long as the HB2 measure remained in effect,” read a statement from the group.
Charlotte City Council earlier this week repealed its nondiscrimination ordinance – which HB2 had nullified – with the expectation that the General Assembly would repeal HB2. But the deal fell apart Wednesday, when legislators couldn’t agree on how to repeal HB2 and some Republicans pushed for a moratorium on cities passing new nondiscrimination ordinances.
“There are legislators in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses who support repeal as a way to mitigate economic and reputational damage to our state,” Morgan said. “We look to the leadership to regroup and prepare to seek action in January for the future of our state.”
The N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association has been working closely with policymakers in Raleigh to “get HB2 off the books,” said Lynn Minges, president and CEO of the group. The controversial measure has cost the state’s tourism industry “hundreds of millions of dollars,” she added.
“There’s been collateral damage in a battle we didn’t start,” Minges said. “And the saddest part is while we thought the end might be in sight, those economic losses are almost certain to continue into 2017 and beyond.”
Laura White, a spokeswoman for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, said the group did not have any official response to Wednesday’s actions in Raleigh, but that the CRVA maintains close communication with meeting planners, conventions and others planning major events in Charlotte.
“(HB2) continues to be something they want updates on,” White said.
Dan Roselli, co-founder of the Packard Place entrepreneurial hub in uptown, said HB2 makes it “devastatingly hard on us as entrepreneurs” to recruit companies to come to North Carolina.
“The long-term impact is what I’m worried about,” Roselli said.
“I think we have done a billion dollars in damage to the brand of North Carolina...Is the state of North Carolina going to collapse? No....but does this make it harder? Yes. And it just makes it frustrating.”
It was a sad day for North Carolina. Now it’s going to take a Christmas miracle for HB2 to be repealed in time to help us with the NCAA.
Scott Dupree, executive director of Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance
A six-year ‘drought’ of NCAA
Since HB2 was signed into law in March, dozens of sporting events have pulled out of North Carolina over opposition to the measure, including the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, the ACC title game in Charlotte in December, CIAA games throughout the state in February, and the NCAA basketball tournament in Greensboro next spring.
It’s becoming increasingly likely North Carolina will go without NCAA tournament games for at least six years.
This week, the league said that its decision to withdraw the championships from North Carolina remains unchanged.
“We hope our championships can resume as scheduled in 2017-18, but that decision has not been made yet,” spokesman David Worlock said.
As for future tournaments, cities throughout the state, including Charlotte and Raleigh, submitted bids in August to host tournament games for the 2018-2019 and 2021-22 seasons. The NCAA says the sites will be announced April 18, so a delayed action on HB2 does not bode well for North Carolina as a host.
“I made the mistake of getting my hopes up yesterday, only to be disappointed. It was a sad day for North Carolina. Now it’s going to take a Christmas miracle for HB2 to be repealed in time to help us with the NCAA,” said Scott Dupree, executive director of Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.
“As of now, nothing has changed, so we are staring directly at a six-year drought of NCAA championships if this is not resolved early, very early in 2017.”
The NBA and ACC declined to additional comment beyond their previous comments in opposition to HB2. The CIAA could not be reached. Luke DeCock of the (Raleigh) News & Observer and Celeste Smith of the Charlotte Observer contributed.