During the debate over repealing House Bill 2 on Wednesday, state Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Charlotte Democrat, blasted the Republicans for not fulfilling their end of a deal with Charlotte City Council.
Jackson said elected officials from the city of Charlotte “acted in good faith.”
The Senate Republicans burst out in laughter.
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During the special session, there was indecision all day and into the night over how and whether HB2 would be repealed. But one thing most Republicans agreed on: They had an intense dislike for the Queen City.
“So when you talk about trust, I think the city of Charlotte has been as disingenuous as anybody I’ve ever seen,” said State Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican from Onslow County.
Historically, tensions have simmered between North Carolina’s largest city and elected officials from across the state. Some have disdainfully called the city “The Great State of Mecklenburg.”
But the GOP’s distaste for the city has been building since the city in March expanded its nondiscrimination ordinance that gave the LGBT community legal protections.
It reached new levels Wednesday.
City Council on Monday repealed part of its nondiscrimination ordinance in hopes that the General Assembly would repeal HB2. But while many legislators believed that council members had repealed their entire nondiscrimination ordinance, the city had only repealed the part of its ordinance dealing with LGBT protections in public accommodations and bathrooms.
The city kept part of the ordinance that prohibited the city from hiring contractors who discriminated against their subcontractors based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Also intact: a provision that would prohibit taxi cabs from discriminating against a potential passenger for being gay or transgender.
When word circulated Tuesday that some of the ordinance remained, some legislators talked about scuttling the deal. City Council’s two Republicans said the city wasn’t acting in bad faith. It was an honest mistake, they said.
The city nonetheless held an emergency meeting Wednesday morning to repeal the rest of the ordinance.
Senate President Phil Berger criticized the city’s back and forth.
“(The city) said they did it Monday, but they did not,” he said.
Republican Sen. Andrew Brock, who represents parts of Iredell and Rowan counties, hammered the city.
“President Reagan said trust but verify,” he said. “Did the city fully repeal it? Nope. They said it was a technicality. No way it was a technicality.”
He said the City Council pulled “the worst stunt I have ever seen.”
Republican Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson added: “I have no faith in the city of Charlotte,” calling its City Council “the lunatic left.”
Berger said his proposed six-month moratorium on new LGBT nondiscrimination legislation – what he called a “cooling off period” – was in part because Charlotte leaders talked about working to pass nondiscrimination legislation as soon as HB2 was repealed.
The special session began on a shaky note for Charlotte.
In the House, Republican State Rep. Jeff Collins of Rocky Mount opened the debate by saying the entire session was unneeded and “unconstitutional.” He blamed Charlotte for having to call the special session.
State Rep. Becky Carney, a Charlotte Democrat, captured the mood toward her city:
“The animosity is very high.”