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Agreement to end HB 2 but are there enough votes? (Video)
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Agreement to end HB 2 but are there enough votes? (Video)

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Updated at 9:18 a.m.

RALEIGH — Republican legislative leaders in North Carolina and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper say they have an agreement to end the state's "bathroom bill" that they hope will drive away negative national attention and remove obstacles to expanding businesses and attracting sporting events.

But they'll have to get enough votes in the House and Senate for a proposal set for debate Thursday so the replacement measure for the March 2016 law known as House Bill 2 can reach Cooper's desk.

Social conservatives in the General Assembly would prefer to have HB2 stay on the books. Gay rights groups oppose the replacement measure because it would still restrict LGBT protections from discrimination. Political repercussions exist for legislators and Cooper.

Just hours after the announcement, about a dozen protesters gathered outside the Executive Mansion in Raleigh early Thursday, calling on Democratic lawmakers to vote no. Cooper was hosting Democrats, urging them to support the plan.

Cooper, who was elected governor last November with support from LGBT forces and on a platform that included a complete repeal of HB2, said in a release that he supported the compromise unveiled Wednesday shortly before midnight by GOP lawmakers.

"It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation," Cooper said.

The late-night announcement came as the NCAA had said North Carolina sites won't be considered for championship events from 2018 to 2022 "absent any change" in House Bill 2, which it views as discrimination. The NCAA said decisions would be made starting this week on events. North Carolina cities, schools and other groups have offered more than 130 bids for such events.

The NCAA already removed championship events from the state this year because of the law, which limits LGBT nondiscrimination protections and requires transgender people to use restrooms in schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.

HB2 has prompted some businesses to halt expansions and entertainers and sports organizations to cancel or move events, including the NBA All-Star game in Charlotte. An Associated Press analysis this week found that HB2 already will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years.

The new proposal would repeal HB2 but would leave state legislators in charge of policy on public multi-stall restrooms. Local governments also couldn't pass ordinances extending nondiscrimination protections in private employment and in places such as hotels and restaurants covering categories like sexual orientation and gender identity until December 2020. That temporary moratorium, according to GOP House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, would allow time for pending federal litigation over transgender issues to play out.

"Compromise requires give and take from all sides, and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy," Berger and Moore said in a statement. It's not clear whether the NCAA would be satisfied by the changes.

Responding before Wednesday night's announcement to anticipated provisions in the legislation, top national and state gay rights activists blasted the proposal and said those who back Thursday's measure aren't allies of the LGBT community. Only a complete repeal, with nothing else, will do, they say.

"At its core, it's a statewide prohibition on equality," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told reporters, adding that consequences could fall on Cooper, whom gay rights activists backed in the election, for backing a "dirty deal."

"It would be a failure of leadership for Cooper" and for Democratic legislative leaders to back this agreement "instead of standing up for civil rights," Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro said.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed HB2 in response to a Charlotte ordinance that allowed transgender people to use restroom aligned with their gender identity. Cooper narrowly defeated GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the law. HB2 supporters say ordinances like the one in Charlotte make it easy for sexual predators to enter public restrooms designated for the opposite sex.

Several potential compromises have failed over the past year, including one during a special session in December that collapsed amid partisan finger-pointing. GOP and Democratic legislators have been in a seemingly endless chase during the past several weeks to cobble together enough votes on various drafts of legislation.


Updated at 8:55 a.m.

RALEIGH — Republican legislative leaders in North Carolina and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper say they have an agreement to end the state's so-called "bathroom bill" that they hope will drive away negative national attention and remove obstacles to expanding businesses and attracting sporting events.

But they'll have to get enough votes in the House and Senate for a proposal set for debate Thursday so the replacement measure for the March 2016 law known as House Bill 2 can reach Cooper's desk.

Social conservatives in the General Assembly would prefer to have HB2 stay on the books. Gay rights groups oppose the replacement measure because it would still restrict LGBT protections from discrimination. Political repercussions exist for legislators and Cooper.

Cooper, who was elected governor last November with support from LGBT forces and on a platform that included a complete repeal of HB2, said in a release that he supported the compromise unveiled Wednesday shortly before midnight by GOP lawmakers.

"It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation," Cooper said.

The late-night announcement came as the NCAA had said North Carolina sites won't be considered for championship events from 2018 to 2022 "absent any change" in House Bill 2, which it views as discrimination. The NCAA said decisions would be made starting this week on events. North Carolina cities, schools and other groups have offered more than 130 bids for such events.

The NCAA already removed championship events from the state this year because of the law, which limits LGBT nondiscrimination protections and requires transgender people to use restrooms in schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.

HB2 has prompted some businesses to halt expansions and entertainers and sports organizations to cancel or move events, including the NBA All-Star game in Charlotte. An Associated Press analysis this week found that HB2 already will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years.

The new proposal would repeal HB2 but would leave state legislators in charge of policy on public multi-stall restrooms. Local governments also couldn't pass ordinances extending nondiscrimination protections in private employment and in places such as hotels and restaurants covering categories like sexual orientation and gender identity until December 2020. That temporary moratorium, according to GOP House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, would allow time for pending federal litigation over transgender issues to play out.

"Compromise requires give and take from all sides, and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy," Berger and Moore said in a statement. It's not clear whether the NCAA would be satisfied by the changes.

Responding before Wednesday night's announcement to anticipated provisions in the legislation, top national and state gay rights activists blasted the proposal and said those who back Thursday's measure aren't allies of the LGBT community. Only a complete repeal, with nothing else, will do, they say.

"At its core, it's a statewide prohibition on equality," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told reporters, adding that consequences could fall on Cooper, whom gay rights activists backed in the election, for backing a "dirty deal."

"It would be a failure of leadership for Cooper" and for Democratic legislative leaders to back this agreement "instead of standing up for civil rights," Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro said.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed HB2 in response to a Charlotte ordinance that allowed transgender people to use restroom aligned with their gender identity. Cooper narrowly defeated GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the law. HB2 supporters say ordinances like the one in Charlotte make it easy for sexual predators to enter public restrooms designated for the opposite sex.

Several potential compromises have failed over the past year, including one during a special session in December that collapsed amid partisan finger-pointing. GOP and Democratic legislators have been in a seemingly endless chase during the past several weeks to cobble together enough votes on various drafts of legislation.


Updated 12:30 a.m.

North Carolina Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said late Wednesday that they have agreed on legislation to resolve a standoff over the state's "bathroom bill" through a replacement measure that still restricts LGBT nondiscrimination protections.

GOP leaders announced the new legislation would be debated and voted on Thursday, but it was unclear whether there were enough House and Senate votes to pass it. And leaders of gay rights groups were incensed about the anticipated proposal and vowed political punishment for elected officials who support it.

Cooper, who ran successfully last fall on a platform that included repealing House Bill 2, said in a release that he supported the compromise.

"It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation," he said.

The late-night work came as the NCAA has said North Carolina sites won't be considered for championship events from 2018 to 2022 "absent any change" in the March 2016 law known as House Bill 2, which it views as discrimination. The NCAA said decisions would be made starting this week on events. North Carolina cities, schools and other groups have offered more than 130 bids for such events.

The NCAA already removed championship events from the state this year because of the law, which limits LGBT nondiscrimination protections and requires transgender people to use restrooms in schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.

HB2 has prompted some businesses to halt expansions and entertainers and sports organizations to cancel or move events, including the NBA All-Star game in Charlotte. An Associated Press analysis this week found that HB2 already will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years.

The new proposal would repeal HB2 but would leave state legislators in charge of policy on public multi-stall restrooms. Local governments also couldn't pass ordinances extending nondiscrimination covering things like sexual orientation and gender identity until December 2020. That temporary moratorium, according to House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, would allow time for pending federal litigation over transgender issues to play out.

"Compromise requires give and take from all sides, and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy," Berger and Moore said in a prepared statement.

Moore and Berger made the announcement after several hours of private meetings among lawmakers, with the two shuttling between their corner offices at the Legislative Building. GOP lawmakers and Cooper have been grappling for months over what to do about HB2, which the Republican-controlled legislature passed in response to a Charlotte ordinance that allowed transgender people to use restroom aligned with their gender identity.

Cooper narrowly defeated GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the law. A potential compromise failed during a special session in December, when Cooper was governor-elect.

Social conservatives want HB2 to remain in place, saying ordinances like the one in Charlotte make it easy for male sexual predators to enter public restrooms designated for the opposite sex.

Anything except a full repeal — nothing else — has drawn opposition from gay rights groups, who responded before the announcement to anticipated provisions in the legislation.

"At its core, it's a statewide prohibition on equality," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told reporters earlier Wednesday as details of the proposal began surfacing. "Just like we did with ... McCrory, we will hold all elected officials accountable — Democrats and Republicans — who target our community by advancing this statewide ban on nondiscrimination protections."


Updated 11:46 p.m.

Officials have released details of the compromise bill to repeal HB 2.

Besides the repeal, it includes two other provisions, according to a joint statement from Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore:

  • Return to the status quo before Charlotte’s bathroom ordinance
  • Implement a moratorium on local ordinances similar to Charlotte’s until Dec. 1, 2020, to allow federal litigation to play out.

"Compromise requires give and take from all sides and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy," Berger and Moore said in a joint statement.

Cooper said in a statement late Wednesday he supports the compromise.

"It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation," he said.


Updated 11:25 p.m.

By Colin Campbell and Jim Morrill

The News & Observer

RALEIGH — North Carolina lawmakers could repeal House Bill 2 on Thursday under a deal struck 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 a day of intensified negotiations and sometimes contentious meetings of lawmakers from both parties.

Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore took no questions. Details of the deal were to be released later Wednesday.

They said the Senate will vote first, at 9:15 a.m. Thursday. The House will then vote.

The movement on HB 2 comes ahead of a deadline Thursday from the NCAA to make changes to the controversial LGBT law or lose the ability to host sports championships through 2022.

Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue said Wednesday afternoon that he, Gov. Roy 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 in a news release. "This is too important and we can't throw in the towel on this."

Leaked information appeared to reveal a compromise that would repeal HB 2, prevent cities from regulating bathrooms and locker rooms while preventing local governments from adopting anti-discrimination ordinances for three years. Sources said House Republicans narrowly approved the compromise in a closed-door caucus, but in numbers that would require Democratic votes on the floor.

For some HB 2 opponents, that is apparently too much. Rep. Cecil Brockman, one of two openly gay 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 HB 2 '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 HB 2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what's right."

Wednesday's action follows a news conference Tuesday in which Moore and Berger said they are willing to agree "in principle" to House Bill 2 changes they say were proposed last week by Gov. Cooper — but the Democratic governor says there are "still issues to be worked out."

Moore and Berger said Tuesday that they were surprised that Cooper did not agree to the terms of a compromise.

Later, Cooper met at the governor's mansion for more than two hours with Berger and Moore. They broke at about 9:45 p.m. with no agreement.

HB 2 bans cities, towns and counties from passing nondiscrimination ordinances. Berger indicated that the proposed changes to HB 2 would allow local governments to enact ordinances but only with the protected classifications established in federal law. Those classifications don't explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity.

The proposal would repeal HB 2 but would ban local governments, universities and school boards from setting bathroom access policies similar to the Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that prompted HB 2.

It also includes a provision to "protect the rights of conscience," which would allow lawsuits against the state for anyone who believes their constitutional rights are threatened by government action. That provision has drawn comparisons to Indiana's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but Moore rejects that description. Cooper says he'll oppose any bill with a provision similar to RFRA.

Democratic Sen. Joel Ford introduced a bill last week that would repeal the bill and call for a "cooling off" period. Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte 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."


Updated 11:08 p.m.

Republican leaders said late Wednesday they have reached an agreement with Gov. Roy Cooper on repealing HB 2 but gave no details until a joint statement could be released later that evening.

No details had been released by 11 p.m.

Cooper said in a statement late Wednesday he supports the compromise.

"It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation," he said.

The proposed committee substitution to House Bill 142 will be considered at 9:15 a.m. today, Senate leader Phil Berger said. The bill is in the Senate Rules Committee.

Legislators had been discussing proposals throughout the day and party leaders were negotiating with Cooper behind closed doors.

“It’s been a very long day for all of us,” House Speaker Tim Moore said.

The announcement followed a flurry of activity on repealing the law more commonly referred to as HB 2. Passed in a one-day special session last March, HB 2 limits LGBT nondiscrimination protections and requires transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.

The law already has prompted some businesses to halt expansions and some entertainers and sports organizations to cancel or move events, including the NBA All-Star game in Charlotte. An Associated Press analysis this week found that HB 2 already will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years.

The NCAA already removed championship events this year from North Carolina. The group has said North Carolina sites also won't be considered for championship events from 2018 to 2022 "absent any change in the law." The NCAA said decisions for those events are being made starting this week and it will announce them in a few weeks.

Adding urgency, an NCAA source said Tuesday the state had two days to repeal the law or lose years of NCAA championship events.

Berger and Moore held a press conference Tuesday afternoon saying they had agreed in principle to a proposal by Cooper, but that he later denied making any deal. Cooper’s office said issues still needed to be worked out, including a religious freedom provision that Democrats would not accept.

That night, Cooper met at the governor’s mansion for more than two hours with Berger and Moore.

The News & Observer reported leaks appeared to reveal a compromise that would repeal HB 2, prevent cities from regulating bathrooms and locker rooms and prevent local governments from adopting anti-discrimination ordinances for three years. According to the newspaper, sources said House Republicans narrowly approved the compromise in a closed-door caucus, but in numbers that would require Democratic votes on the floor.

The Senate is expected to vote at 9:15 a.m. with the House to follow.


Updated 10:37 p.m.

Republican leaders said late Wednesday they have reached an agreement with Gov. Roy Cooper on HB 2 but gave no details until a joint statement could be released later this evening.

The proposed committee substitution to House Bill 142 will be considered at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, Senate leader Phil Berger said. The bill is in the Senate Rules Committee.

Legislators have been discussing proposals throughout the day and party leaders have been negotiating with Cooper behind closed doors.

“It’s been a very long day for all of us,” House Speaker Tim Moore said.


Posted 8:49 p.m.

RALEIGH — North Carolina lawmakers keep huddling to shape legislation that does away with the state's "bathroom bill" and gets enough votes for passage this week to avoid new punishments by the NCAA.

Republicans and Democrats spent several hours Wednesday in closed-door meetings. Several lawmakers said there was a new proposal floated by Republicans. Bills considered recently would repeal the law known as House Bill 2, but contain add-ons. No agreement had been reached Wednesday night.

HB2 blocks expansion of LGBT rights in local ordinances and requires transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.

The NCAA has said North Carolina won't be considered for championships from 2018 to 2022 unless HB2 is changed. The group has said site decisions would begin getting made this week.

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