In what their leader called the “last best chance” to repeal House Bill 2, North Carolina House Democrats Tuesday tried and failed to force a vote that would take the law off the books.
The attempt by House Minority Leader Darren Jackson of Raleigh came a day after Gov. Roy Cooper urged repeal in his State of the State address. It also came the week many believe is the deadline for the NCAA’s decision where to award championship events through 2022.
“This is the week to either repeal HB2 or let it stand until after the next election,” Jackson told House members. “This week is our last best chance. … It’s as simple as that.”
Jackson used a parliamentary maneuver to force a vote to add repeal to a nonrelated banking bill. Other repeal bills are bottled up in committee.
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The House killed Jackson’s effort by a generally party-line vote of 74-44.
HB2 nullified a Charlotte ordinance that extended protections to the LGBT community. It’s blamed for decisions by some companies to locate elsewhere and for the NCAA and ACC to move championship events. Early-round NCAA tournament games that would have put the University of North Carolina and Duke in Greensboro were moved to Greenville, S.C.
The NCAA plans to announce tournament sites in mid-April. N.C. cities and schools have bid for more than 130 events. The widespread assumption is that if HB2 is not repealed, those events also will go elsewhere. The NCAA appeared to affirm that in a statement released Tuesday.
“When the Board of Governors moved championships from North Carolina last year, it was a clear response to state laws that local communities admitted would make it difficult to assure that our events could be held in an environment that was safe, healthy, and free from discrimination,” it said. “Our constitution and values commit us to respecting the dignity of every person. Our decisions reflect those values and our principles have not changed.”
Jackson and other Democrats said later that the NCAA deadline prompted what may be the last attempt to strike the law.
Efforts to find a compromise appear to have collapsed. Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican who sponsored what has been considered the most likely compromise bill, HB 186, said Tuesday it doesn’t have enough support.
Jackson, flanked by Democratic colleagues, told reporters later that he fears any sense of urgency among Republicans will die once the NCAA decisions are made.
“It will at some point become a campaign issue, not a policy issue,” he said.