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HB 2 Repeal 'Deal' All But Dead

Tom Bullock

I’ll repeal mine if you repeal yours.

That’s the message North Carolina’s Republican leaders have been sending to the Charlotte City Council the past few days. The governor and legislative leaders have said they’re prepared to repeal House Bill 2 in full if, and only if, Charlotte votes to repeal its expanded non-discrimination ordinance first.

This morning Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said no deal.

Mayor Jennifer Roberts made her position clear in a statement released this morning.

We are not prepared to add this item to our agenda this evening, however, we urge the state to take action as soon as possible and encourage continued dialogue with the broader community.

It seems likely that this scuttles the deal struck by a lobbying group representing the state’s hospitality industry. Whereby Governor Pat McCrory would call a special session of the legislature to repeal in full HB 2. But only if the Charlotte City Council votes Monday night to repeal their non-discrimination ordinance which expanded LGBT protections in the city.

After all, Republican lawmakers have said time and again, HB 2 was necessary because of the Charlotte ordinance. Jeff Tarte is a state senator from north Mecklenburg County. "I won't support repealing HB 2 without the city ordinance," being repealed Tarte said, "because of the language that enables women to be exposed to men, if you will, going into their lockers. That just needs to stop."

There are a bevy of laws that long predate HB 2 that would make such an act a crime.

Still, Republican leaders insist the cornerstone of this deal is that Charlotte act first. Though to some on the city council 'deal' isn’t the right word. "What the leadership in the General Assembly and the governor are proposing is not a deal," says Charlotte City Councilman John Autry. "It’s not a compromise. It’s the same old routine they attempted back in May to deflect and divert blame to the Charlotte City Council."

Indeed the Council did have a similar, though not identical, deal proposed in May.

Back then the General Assembly was offering to make some changes to HB 2. The council voted 7 to 4 against that. Now, the General Assembly is offering to repeal the whole law. But Autry’s frustration at that offer is clear. He sighs before saying "It’s a circular logic. We’ll repeal our ban on LGBT protections if you repeal your LGBT protections."

Mayor Roberts clearly agrees.

Which means its highly unlikely the measure will get a vote tonight since there are only three ways to get it added to the agenda: a unanimous vote of the council, the mayor places it on the agenda or the city manager adds it to the list. The current city manager, Ron Kimble, still has interim in his job title, so it’s not clear if he would be willing to put this political hot potato on the night’s plate.

So what now?

The Charlotte Council is doing the right thing says Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality NC, an LGBT advocacy group. "We don’t have time for Governor McCrory’s antics. We only have time after these 180 days of economic suffering for Pat McCrory and his legislative allies to step up and repeal House Bill 2."

Which the General Assembly could do, all on its own, regardless of whether or not the Charlotte city council votes tonight.

But legislative leaders still seem keen to have Charlotte act first. Senate Pro-Tem Phil Berger even offered the council some advice in a statement today.

If the Charlotte City Council doesn't trust the legislature will rescind HB2 once Charlotte repeals its bathroom ordinance, then it could simply pass a repeal of the bathroom ordinance that is only effective if the legislature repeals HB2.

The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce released a statement which reads in part, “We continue to call on leaders at the city and state to act and specifically request that the North Carolina General Assembly move to repeal HB2 as quickly as possible.”

For his part, Republican Jeff Tarte, who voted for HB2, now believes something has to be done, "the sooner the better. But if it happens 2 weeks, 4 weeks, whatever, we need to address it. We need to repeal both. And we need to stop this."

All sides in this argument seem to believe HB 2 is hurting the state’s economy and reputation. Now they’re fighting over who is to blame for the fallout.

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.