Politics & Government

Lawmakers vote Thursday on deal to repeal HB2

North Carolina lawmakers could repeal House Bill 2 on Thursday under a deal struck late Wednesday night by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislative leaders.

Senate leader Phil Berger announced the deal shortly after 10:30 p.m. The announcement capped days of marathon, often contentious negotiations and closed-door meetings.

Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore took no questions. Details of the deal had not been released by 11 p.m. but were provided in a .PDF document soon after.

“I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow,” Cooper said in a statement. “It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation.”

According to a statement from Berger and Moore, the bill would:

▪ Repeal HB2.

▪ Leave bathroom regulation to the state, essentially returning to the status quo before Charlotte passed a 2016 ordinance allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their gender identity.

▪ Enact a moratorium on similar ordinances until Dec. 1, 2020.

For over a year, HB2, widely seen as anti-LGBT, put North Carolina in the national spotlight and prompted boycotts and economic losses. The NBA moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte. The ACC and the NCAA moved championship games. But the compromise to repeal it drew fire from LGBT groups even before it was announced.

“The deal proposed would continue to actively discriminate against the LGBT community,” Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, said in a conference call.

Sources said House Republicans narrowly approved the compromise in a closed-door caucus, but in numbers that would require Democratic votes on the floor.

That vote would come Thursday morning. The Senate is expected to vote at 9:15 a.m. The House will follow.

The movement on HB2 comes ahead of a reported Thursday deadline from the NCAA to make changes to the controversial law or lose the ability to host sports championships through 2022. The announcement of a deal capped a whirlwind day of meetings at the legislature and phone calls to the governor.

Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue said Wednesday afternoon that he, Cooper and Republican leaders had been negotiating “over the past 48 hours in a joint effort to find common ground and repeal House Bill 2.”

“We have been dealing with varying philosophical differences on a wide range of points related to House Bill 2 itself and various compromise proposals,” Blue said in a news release. “This is too important and we can’t throw in the towel on this.”

For some HB2 opponents, the proposed compromise was too much. Rep. Cecil Brockman, one of two openly LGBT lawmakers, slammed the door in frustration when leaving a caucus meeting. The Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC issued a news release as negotiations continued.

“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”

Wednesday’s action followed Tuesday’s drama in which Moore and Berger said they had agrees “in principle” to a repeal proposal with the governor, only to say the governor had denied that he’d agreed to it. Later, the two met with the governor for more than two hours at the executive mansion before breaking up with no agreement.

HB2 bans cities, towns and counties from passing nondiscrimination ordinances.

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.”

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