North Carolina’s HB2, the so-called “bathroom bill,” was slated for repeal almost two weeks ago. Legislators met for a special session that would complete a deal between GOP leadership in the state, and legislators for the city of Charlotte, by repealing the bill that requires certain public restrooms to be segregated by gender, with gender defined by the sex marked on an individual’s birth certificate.
However, the repeal did not take place. Democratic senators say they waited for Republicans to submit a bill repealing the bathroom law, as agreed, and when GOP lawmakers failed to do so, Democratic senators Jeff Jackson, Terry Van Duyn and Mike Woodard filed their own bill for repeal of the bathroom bill, a law one state representative said there is “absolutely no way” to enforce.
Five hours after N.C. Senator Dan Blue shared that state Democrats had submitted the bathroom bill repeal promised by the GOP, he let his constituents know that the repeal had failed, calling the entire day a “tremendous waste of time.”
Senator Jeff Jackson published shortly thereafter a description of the legislative process that had failed to repeal the notorious bathroom bill. His piece, in Charlotte Agenda, lays out the steps as follows:
- State legislators and Charlotte legislators agree: Charlotte’s anti-discrimination law that purportedly created a need for the bathroom bill would be repealed, and so would HB2.
- Charlotte legislators repealed their law as agreed.
- State legislators met in a special session.
- GOP lawmakers failed to submit a bill repealing HB2, or even simply the bathroom and discrimination aspects.
- After some time, Senator Jackson and colleagues submitted their own bill to do so.
- Senate Republicans responded with a bill of their own — repealing the bathroom bill but forbidding additional local legislation for a period of six months.
“And that wasn’t the deal. Part of the reason Charlotte was willing to go forward with repealing its own ordinance was to take a symbolic step toward re-establishing trust with the General Assembly. Now, on the day of the special session, and without consulting the city, Senate Republicans had changed the terms of the deal in a significant way.”
Now, however, over a week later, North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers are telling a different tale. Representative Phil Berger released a statement on Friday, in which he describes his view of the failure to repeal HB2.
Berger describes a scene in which he has tried since May to repeal the state’s bathroom bill, in a deal similar to the one that Charlotte and state legislators eventually agreed upon. However, he says, it’s only due to the political aspirations of Roy Cooper — then North Carolina’s attorney general, now the state’s new governor — that the bill wasn’t repealed months ago.
“They usually cited the influence of Mayor Jennifer Roberts and then Democratic candidate for Governor Roy Cooper as the reason they chose not to act. Cooper and Roberts share the same political consultant, and news reports have chronicled their meetings about how to maximize their political opportunities.”
Further, Berger released an image showing the outcome of the December 21st vote on repealing HB2, highlighting the fact that numerous Senate Democrats voted against it.
Berger did not mention the six-month period in which local government would be forbidden to act on the local level. However, the North Carolina General Assembly records show that he is the sole stated sponsor on the bill that proposes this and that the six-month moratorium goes farther than limiting bathroom legislation.
“No local government in this State may enact or amend an ordinance regulating employment practices or regulating public accommodations or access to restrooms, showers, or changing facilities.”
While the so-called “bathroom bill” included lines affecting non-discrimination policies in hiring and firing as well as access to shared facilities, the bathroom aspect has, of course, been one of the primary parts publicly discussed. However, the initial bill limited local governments’ ability to pass laws regarding nondiscrimination policies or minimum wage, among other things.
This clause appears to simply reinforce that portion, again forbidding local governments to act on behalf of their own citizens for a period of time.
The repeal bill proposed by Jackson, Van Duyn, and Woodard, by contrast, simply repeals, and reiterates that this does not negate any local ordinances or policies.
Sharing his piece, Berger described Governor Roy Cooper as having ‘blocked’ the repeal of the bathroom bill.
— Senator Phil Berger (@SenatorBerger) December 30, 2016
Two days before the special session, Roy Cooper, then the Governor-elect, shared hopes for the deal to result in a full repeal of HB2.
My statement on today's Charlotte City Council vote: pic.twitter.com/qNN8pmvSjv
— Roy Cooper (@RoyCooperNC) December 19, 2016
After the repeal effort failed, he released an additional statement, again calling for a full repeal of HB2, rather than a partial repeal or repeal with caveats.
My statement on yesterday's events at the General Assembly. pic.twitter.com/qCGD9Dz1ud
— Roy Cooper (@RoyCooperNC) December 22, 2016
This was our best chance. It cannot be our last chance.
Governor Cooper’s final words on the matter promise continued efforts to fully repeal North Carolina’s bathroom bill.
[Featured Image by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images]