Two Charlotte City Council members joined a handful of Charlotte business leaders Tuesday in a show of support for a compromise effort to repeal House Bill 2.
Democrat James Mitchell and Republican Ed Driggs joined lawmakers and business leaders at a news conference designed to show support for HB186, a bill that would repeal HB2 while allowing for a referendum on local ordinances like Charlotte’s, which expanded anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community.
Under the bill, critics of an ordinance would need signatures of 10 percent of people who voted in last municipal election to put a referendum on the ballot.
Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican, sponsored the measure. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has criticized the referendum provision, saying it “would be like putting the Civil Rights Act to a popular vote in cities in the South during the 1960s.”
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Like several of the business leaders, Mitchell stopped short of endorsing the bill as it is.
“I’m encouraged that they’re staring to talk to one another,” he said, adding that he’s “not inclined” to support a referendum.
Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan said HB2 has cost Mecklenburg County 2,500 lost jobs. He called the need for repeal “urgent.”
“We are encouraged that (HB 186) that it has kick-started a dialog,” he said during a morning news conference.
Will Webb, executive director of the Charlotte Sports Foundation, said HB2 has cost $140 million in losses due to boycotts by the NCAA, ACC and the move of the NBA All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans.
And Mohammad Jenatian of the Charlotte Hospitality & Tourism Association said more than 100,000 people in the Charlotte area depend on the travel and tourism business. “This legislation has really been victimizing the most vulnerable people in our community,” he said.
But some Democratic lawmakers and LGBT advocates have criticized the proposed compromise bill. They said the referendum provision would ensure ongoing battles over social legislation.
Cooper said Sunday he could support HB186 if the referendum provision is removed.
“Several groups are calling HB186 a sign of progress and a starting point to repeal HB2,” his communications director, Sadie Weiner, said Tuesday. “That can only be the case if Republicans are willing to re-open negotiations.”
McGrady appeared to leave the door open.
“Nothing is off the table at this point in time,” he said. “I’m not going to draw any line in the sand.”