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News In Brief

NC Democrats File Another HB2 Repeal Bill; 2nd Openly-Gay Lawmaker Appointed To Gen. Assembly

Democratic lawmakers in the North Carolina Senate have again offered legislation to repeal House Bill 2, which limits LGBT rights and directs which public bathrooms transgender people can use, among other things.

Four Senate Democrats sponsored repeal legislation filed Wednesday, but it's unlikely to get a hearing in the Republican-controlled chamber. GOP Senate leader Phil Berger has said he doesn't believe the votes are in his chamber for an outright repeal and says compromise would be required.

A sponsor of Wednesday's bill -- Senator Jeff Jackson of Charlotte -- disagrees, saying he believes a majority of House and Senate members would support repeal if there was a floor vote.

A deal between legislative leaders and incoming Gov. Roy Cooper just before Christmas to pass a repeal bill fell apart when Democrats objected to a four month moratorium that would have temporarily banned local governments from enacting nondiscrimination ordinances addressing sexual orientation or gender identity.

Wilmington Attorney Becomes 2nd Openly Gay Lawmaker In NC House

A Wilmington lawyer is the choice of local Democrats to replace state Rep. Susi Hamilton after she joined Gov. Roy Cooper's Cabinet.

A panel of Democratic activists representing New Hanover and Brunswick counties picked Deb Butler on Wednesday night from among 10 candidates interested in serving the rest of Hamilton's House term through 2018. State law requires Cooper to appoint Butler to the 18th House District seat.

Butler would be the second openly-gay member of the General Assembly. She received the backing of the gay rights group Equality North Carolina. Butler ran for the state Senate in 2012 but lost to the Republican incumbent in a race in which abortion was a central issue.

Hamilton, meanwhile, is now secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Cooper Not Yet Committed To Cabinet Confirmation Appearances

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper isn't committing yet to having his Cabinet secretaries come before state Senate committees as part of their formal confirmation process that he's already challenging in court.

Senate Republican leaders laid out this week how they will scrutinize department heads chosen by the new Democratic governor, with the first in a committee meeting next week.

Cooper told reporters Wednesday he wants to talk with senators and "see if we can arrange something." He says he wants to avoid being confrontational and prefers senators wait on acting until his lawsuit is ruled upon.

A key Senate Republican leader downplayed any conflict Tuesday but says the Senate is only using the powers the state Constitution already has given the chamber to "advise and consent" on the governor's appointees.

Early Spring Is Coming To Charlotte, Says Groundhog

Spring is coming early to the Charlotte region. That's according to Queen Charlotte, the groundhog, who tweeted her prediction from her royal burrow at the Charlotte Nature Museum on Thursday.

Her Majesty declined to hold a public ceremony with a live audience and television cameras as in past years; a spokesman told the Charlotte Observer she is prone to shyness and can exhibit stress when faced with crowds and bright lights. Instead, the groundhog forewent her public appearance this year in favor of a digital declaration.

The royal rodent refused to exit her burrow at last year's ceremony, where the gathered crowd of spectators presumably did not mix well with her anxiety. Her handlers later issued a royal decree on her behalf.