As the Rhino Times was going to press, it was announced that after a day of negotiations a deal had been reached between Gov. Roy Cooper and the legislature on an House Bill 2 repeal bill. The bill is slated to be voted on by the state Senate and House Thursday, March 30. Reports are that they have cobbled together enough votes to pass the repeal.
The article below explains why the deal was not reached Tuesday, as was expected.
State House Speaker Tim Moore and President Pro Tem of the state Senate Phil Berger held an odd press conference Tuesday, March 28 in the Legislative Building in Raleigh.
According to Berger, they called the press conference to announce that they had reached an agreement with Gov. Roy Cooper on the repeal of House Bill 2 (HB2), better known as the bathroom bill. But on the way to the press conference, they called Cooper and found out that they didn’t have a deal after all.
Berger said they had been negotiating in good faith with Cooper’s attorney and had come to an agreement on the four points that Cooper, through his attorney, was insisting had to be in the bill to get Cooper’s approval. Berger said they had reached an agreement on all four points that Cooper had proposed.
Berger said that he and Moore had been lining up support in their respective caucuses to make certain the votes were there to pass the bill with the support of some Democrats. The Republicans have veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate, so without significant Republican support the bill wouldn’t have the votes to pass.
Once they lined up support, according to Berger, they called a press conference to announce they had reached an agreement with the governor on a bill to repeal HB2. But just before the press conference, in a call to the governor, Cooper informed them that he didn’t support the proposed bill.
Berger said several times that he was “taken aback” by Cooper’s response that he had never agreed to the four parts of the bill. Berger said that the proposal for the bill came from Cooper.
So, at the press conference, Berger released emails between his office and William McKinney, the governor’s legal counsel, that show McKinney had agreed with the four-part bill proposal.
McKinney worked for Cooper when Cooper was attorney general, before being elected governor, so this wasn’t simply someone in the governor’s office that Berger and Moore were negotiating with but the governor’s attorney and a longtime associate.
Moore and Berger said they didn’t know what they would do next, because they thought that when McKinney agreed to the proposal that meant that it had the support of Cooper, and they didn’t find out until Tuesday evening that the governor did not support the terms that his attorney had negotiated with the Republican leadership.
If there was mistrust between Cooper and the Republican leadership, it has doubled or tripled. It would appear that the only person who can speak for the governor is the governor himself, which is going to make it extremely difficult for Cooper to run a state with nearly 10 million people.
Moore at the press conference said that since last Thursday he had been meeting with groups of representatives in his office and talking to others by phone to line up votes. The press conference was called because he had commitments from a majority of the House Republican Caucus to vote for a bill that contained the four points that Cooper’s office, but evidently not Cooper, had agreed to.
State Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Greensboro), who is the Republican House whip, said after the press conference that the Republican leadership had lined up 41 votes for the repeal bill presented in broad terms by Berger and Moore on Tuesday. Hardister said that was a majority of the Republican caucus, but it would take some Democratic support to get the bill passed by the 120 member House. So far no Democrats have been willing to break away from the governor to support an HB2 repeal, so without Cooper’s support this HB2 repeal bill appears to be dead on arrival.
Hardister said, “So far the governor has been holding out, preventing a compromise. At least four times the governor has stifled a compromise.”
The reason that Berger and Moore need Cooper’s support is that a number of Republicans won’t vote for any HB2 repeal. Those representatives and senators say that it makes sense for men and women to use separate facilities and that their constituents support HB2. So this isn’t a bill that will pass with Republican votes alone. It needs bipartisan support.
So far the Republicans have been unable to come up with any HB2 repeal bill that Cooper will support.
In fact, with all this talk of repealing HB2, the only members of the legislature who have voted for HB2 repeal are 16 Republican senators.
At a special session in December, the Senate held an up or down vote on just the repeal with no provisions for moratoriums or any of the other issues that have been included in other bills. This was a vote on repealing HB2 period, and not a single Democrat voted for the bill because Cooper told them not to.
State Sen. Joel Ford (D-Mecklenburg) said after the vote in December that the Democratic senators were prepared to vote for the bill when it included a moratorium with a sunset clause, but Cooper called and told them to vote no, even on the straight repeal, so they did.
One thing the Democrats do have right now is great party discipline. You would think that some Democratic senator would have gone against Cooper and voted for the repeal, but none did.
It’s also worth noting that not a single Democratic senator voted against HB2 in 2016. The bill passed the Senate without a single no vote because the Democratic senators all walked out rather than vote for or against the bill.
According to Berger and Moore, they negotiated with Cooper’s office in good faith, reached an agreement in principle, lined up the votes in their respective caucuses and then discovered that Cooper – despite the participation and agreement of his office – was not on board.
Hardister said that since they have been in the minority, the Democrats have talked a lot about compromising and meeting in the middle, but in this case they haven’t been willing to compromise at all. He said, “It’s an all or nothing approach by the Democrats.”
Hardister said that House Bill 186 – which was another HB2 repeal bill that had bipartisan sponsorship – failed because Cooper wouldn’t support it, even though it had Democratic sponsors. He said, “It’s starting to look like Gov. Cooper doesn’t want to repeal House Bill 2.”
Hardister said that he didn’t see HB2 as about bathrooms but about how much authority the state should allow local governments.”
He said that he believed laws governing bathroom usage should be statewide rather than different from municipality to municipality. Hardister compared it to building codes, which are statewide, and he noted that part of that code governs public bathrooms, such as how large they have to be, the facilities required, down to having paper towel dispensers and signage.
The other issue, according to Hardister, is how much local governments can impose on the private sector. Which means should a privately owned business in Greensboro be able to decide on its own bathroom usage policy or should the city government be able to pass an ordinance governing who can use what bathroom. HB2 doesn’t govern the use of privately-owned facilities, only government-owned facilities.
Hardister noted that despite what the mainstream media were reporting, the actual impact on the state’s economy was insignificant.
He noted that the screaming headline across the front page of the News & Record on Tuesday, March 27 – “HB 2 to Cost N.C. $3.76B” – was misleading.
Hardister is right, what the headline doesn’t say is that $3.76 billion is projected over 12 years. However, projected over 12 years, the North Carolina gross domestic product (GDP) is about $6 trillion. So although the $3.76 billion sounds like a lot, in reality it is 0.06 percent of the state GDP. Certainly a little more than one half of one percent is not going to ruin the state, and that is assuming that the state’s economy is not going to grow. If you factor in growth, the percentage is even smaller.
Imagine if the same headline had read “HB2 to Cost N.C. 0.06 Percent.” It would hardly have the same impact.
Besides, who does 12-year projections? Egg suppliers? A dozen years is a little hard to justify. It appears they might have been trying to reach $4 billion, but to do that they would have had to project 13 years, and who wants the number 13 in their projection? Then again, why stop at 12 years? Why not 15 years or 20 years or 50 years?