A lot of people are waiting for the magic measure that breaks the impasse over House Bill 2. Rep. John Bradford is trying to help find it.
The second-term Republican from Cornelius is in the middle of the latest efforts to reach a compromise that would get rid of HB2, the law that has gained national attention as the “bathroom bill.”
“You can’t underestimate the economic impact it’s had on our state,” said Bradford.
HB2, passed a year ago this month, overturned a Charlotte ordinance that extended anti-discrimination protections to the LGBT community and allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender identity.
The law is estimated to have cost the state a minimum of 1,400 jobs and up to $630 million in lost revenue from sport championships and other events. Efforts to repeal it have floundered, even with an approaching deadline for the NCAA to pick sites for six years of championship events. Democrats and Republicans have failed to unite on a plan even within their own parties.
With the ACC basketball tournament under way in Brooklyn the league is considering contingency plans to move its 2019 and 2020 tournaments out of North Carolina if HB2 isn’t repealed. Commissioner John Swofford told The (Raleigh) News & Observer this week that he isn’t optimistic.
Bradford is among the co-sponsors of HB186, a bill that would repeal HB2 while pre-empting local bathroom ordinances and making local anti-discrimination measures subject to a public referendum. Last week Bradford, along with Charlotte Republican Rep. Andy Dulin, helped bring business leaders from Mecklenburg County and across the state to the General Assembly in a show of support for the idea of a compromise.
“John has taken the ball and run with it,” said Bill Russell, president Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.
Gary Salamido, a vice president of the N.C. Chamber, said it helps that Bradford, who owns a property management company, comes from the business world. “He’s been a leader on a lot of issues,” he said. “He’s not afraid to handle the tough ones.”
In his second term, the former Cornelius commissioner enjoys a higher profile. He joined the ranks of GOP leadership as a deputy majority whip and chairs two committees, including regulatory reform. He also co-chairs Mecklenburg County’s delegation.
Personable and hard-working, Bradford “doesn’t inflame people on either side,” says Rep. Ken Goodman, a Richmond County Democrat who is co-sponsoring HB186. It was Bradford who took the idea of showcasing business leaders to Rep. Chuck McGrady, the bill’s chief sponsor.
“I really appreciated this willingness to take a project and run with it,” McGrady said.
On Wednesday, Bradford was explaining the proposed compromise to a group from the Charlotte hospitality industry at an impromptu meeting outside the legislative cafeteria.
Finding a compromise has not been easy.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper met Monday with Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans. Both sides are reported to still be far apart. One senator said lawmakers should have taken the deal that was on the table in December. Berger had offered a bill to repeal HB2 while enacting a six-month moratorium on any local non-discrimination ordinances. That failed when Cooper urged Democrats to oppose it.
“It’s a no-brainer when you compare the deal that was offered in December, that is, repeal with a cooling-off period, with (HB)186,” said Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat. “The deal that was offered in December was still a better deal.”
Bradford voted for HB2 a year ago. Now he believes lawmakers “over-reached” just as the Charlotte City Council did in passing its anti-discrimination ordinance.
“I don’t think anyone saw what was coming,” Bradford said.