Politics & Government

HB2 deal? Leaders ‘back at square one,’ but still talking

Democrat Rep. Jackson rebuts Republican claim that Gov. Cooper backed out of HB2 compromise deal

Video: House Democratic leader Rep. Darren Jackson rebuts claims made by Republican leaders Phil Berger and Tim Moore, who said that they had agreed to a compromise proposal by Gov. Roy Cooper on HB2 -- but that Cooper then denied making the propo
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Video: House Democratic leader Rep. Darren Jackson rebuts claims made by Republican leaders Phil Berger and Tim Moore, who said that they had agreed to a compromise proposal by Gov. Roy Cooper on HB2 -- but that Cooper then denied making the propo

Despite a late-night summit that failed to produce an agreement, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is still talking with Republican legislative leaders about repealing House Bill 2, sources said Wednesday morning.

But one Republican, Sen. Tommy Tucker of Union County, said the sides were “back at square one.”

Cooper met at the governor’s mansion for more than two hours with Senate GOP leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore Tuesday night. They broke at about 9:45 p.m. with no agreement.

Their visit followed unusual dueling news conferences and came the day that an NCAA source reportedly said the state had two days to repeal the law or lose years of NCAA championship events.

Around 6:30 p.m., Berger and Moore appeared at the legislative press room with what initially appeared to be a deal to repeal HB2.

“The governor made a proposal late last week that we are prepared to agree to in principle,” Berger told reporters. Then he said Cooper “now denies that he ever made the proposal.”

“We’re not sure where we are right now, quite frankly,” Berger said.

They left, and House Minority Leader Darren Jackson accused the Republicans of a stunt. He said there was no deal.

Berger’s comments Tuesday evening came after GOP aides met for around five hours last week with key Cooper advisers. Emails released by Berger’s office show correspondence between Cooper’s attorney, Bill McKinney, and Charlotte business executive Ned Curran discussing provisions of a possible compromise. Curran could not be reached Wednesday.

Berger said the proposal that Republicans agreed to “in principle” would repeal HB2, leave regulation of bathrooms and shower facilities to the state, allow local governments to pass nondiscrimination ordinances “consistent with federal (law),” and allow citizens who sue over religious or conscience objections to recover court costs if they’re successful.

In a statement Wednesday, Cooper spokesman Ford Porter accused the GOP leaders of “political stunts” in suggesting a deal had been reached.

The impasse continues to frustrate lawmakers on both sides.

“Any time we aren’t successful, the goal posts move back,” said Republican Rep. Chuck McGrady, author of another proposed compromise. “And that makes it harder.”

The NCAA already has canceled events in the state because of the bill, seen by many as anti-LGBT. So have the ACC and the NBA. Some companies have decided not to locate in the state. An Associated Press report this week put the economic loss at $3.76 billion over 10 years.

HB2 overturned a Charlotte anti-discrimination ordinance and requires people in government-run buildings to use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate.

Critics assailed Berger’s proposal.

“Legislative leaders need to stop floating bad proposals that would keep discrimination in state law instead of fully repealing HB2,” said Sarah Gillooly, ACLU policy director. “The answer all along has been a clean repeal of HB2. Tonight legislative leaders have made one thing clear: They will do everything possible to prevent LGBT people from receiving equal protection under the law.”

Tuesday’s back-and-forth left the fate of HB2 unclear.

Two Charlotte-area senators have weighed in. Democratic Sen. Joel Ford of Charlotte introduced a bill last week that would repeal the bill and call for a “cooling off” period. Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte of Cornelius plans to introduce another repeal measure Wednesday. It would increase penalties for crimes committed in bathrooms or locker rooms and add sexual orientation to protected classes. And it has a “conscience” clause for people with religious objections.

“I’ve had leadership on both sides say it has major flaws – it’s too logical,” Tarte said. “It’s a true compromise.”

Earlier Tuesday, the head of the Raleigh Sports Alliance warned that time is running short for the NCAA.

“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” Scott Dupree said Tuesday. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids … now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

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