Politics & Government

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and NC Republican legislative leaders mum after first meeting on HB2

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts speaks at a forum on HB2 hosted by Equality NC.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts speaks at a forum on HB2 hosted by Equality NC. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Promising only “further dialogue,” Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders Thursday offered little information about their first meeting to discuss House Bill 2.

Roberts, who championed the controversial ordinance that prompted the bill, met with House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Phil Berger for more than an hour in Moore’s legislative office.

“We had a productive discussion and are looking for solutions and I look forward to further dialogue,” Roberts said, repeating the line like a mantra as she answered reporters’ questions.

Moore called it “a good conversation,” adding, “I’m sure dialogue will continue.”

The mundane responses may have masked the significance of the meeting. It brought together the key players in the HB2 drama at a critical time for an extended discussion.

On Wednesday the Department of Justice notified the state and the UNC system that HB2 had put it in violation of federal civil rights laws. Federal officials gave the state until Monday to “remedy” the situation. Tim Moore said Thursday that legislators won’t meet that deadline.

North Carolina repealed HB2 in 2017 but left intact some of its provisions. But with Charlotte’s reputation tainted, the city is still paying to market itself to visitors.

Failure to comply could cost the state billions in federal revenue.

The mayor and speaker said they did not discuss the DOJ letter.

HB2 already has been blamed for the decision by PayPal not to locate an operations center in Charlotte, with up to 500 jobs. Business leaders and economic development officials have been quietly lobbying for a compromise.

Whether a compromise is even possible is unclear. Moore, a Kings Mountain Republican, said, “nothing has changed on our House position.”

Some lawmakers say they’re encouraged by Friday’s dialogue.

“I would like to see the Charlotte mayor and City Council speak directly to the House and Senate leadership so we can work out a compromise,” said Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat.

Moore said there was agreement among the three leaders, at least to a point.

“I’ll tell you the one thing we all agree on, and that is we don’t like the fact that North Carolina has been painted in an unfavorable … and unfair light,” he said. “Take the politics out of it. One thing that bothers me is you have all these outside interest groups who really don’t care about this state who are coming in saying a lot of bad things about North Carolina that just aren’t true.”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

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