Last week the state legislature met in a special session for the express purpose of repealing House Bill 2 (HB2), better known as the bathroom bill. But the legislature adjourned after the bill to repeal HB2 failed when not a single Democrat in the state Senate cast a vote in favor of the repeal.
It was an odd vote, with 16 Republican senators, including Speaker Pro Tem of the state Senate Phil Berger, who represents part of Guilford County, and Sen. Trudy Wade, who also represents part of Guilford County in the legislature, both voting in favor of the repeal, but Democratic state Sen. Gladys Robinson, who also represents part of Guilford County, joining the rest of the Democrats in voting against the repeal.
So the bill to repeal HB2 failed on a 16-to-32 vote, with 16 Republicans voting in favor, 16 Republicans voting against and all 16 Democrats voting against repealing HB2.
It seemed a fitting end to the last session of the legislature with Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in office, because it appears that McCrory got outmaneuvered by Democratic Governor-elect Roy Cooper on the bathroom bill, again.
The whole debacle got started because it was reported to McCrory that the Charlotte City Council had repealed the ordinance making bathrooms and shower facilities in Charlotte gender neutral.
McCrory had said that if the Charlotte City Council would repeal the ordinance he would call a special session to repeal HB2, even though this occurred after the election where he lost, in part because of HB2. McCrory called the special session as he said he would.
Wade said that the state Senate was unable to get a copy of the repeal that Charlotte passed but the state House did get a copy.
State Rep. Jon Hardister said that when the attorneys for the state House looked at the repeal document they discovered that Charlotte had not repealed the entire ordinance but only about one page of the five page ordinance.
McCrory should have known this before he called the special session, but evidently he took the Charlotte City Council at its word that the ordinance had been repealed.
So on Wednesday, Dec. 21, while the legislators were in Raleigh, the Charlotte City Council met and repealed the rest of the ordinance. However, the fact that the legislature had been called into special session under false pretenses left many legislators believing that they couldn’t trust the Charlotte City Council not to pass the same ordinance again after the legislature had repealed HB2.
Hardister said that the legislators were told that Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said that as soon as the state passed the repeal, Charlotte was going to pass the same ordinance to create gender-neutral bathrooms again.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists were saying publicly that if HB2 were repealed they would go to another liberal city council and have it pass an ordinance similar to the Charlotte ordinance.
Hardister said, “There was concern in the Republican caucus that if we repealed HB2, Chapel Hill, Durham, Asheville or Greensboro would pass an ordinance similar to the Charlotte ordinance.”
He said, “NC Equality got their message out to social media that as soon as House Bill 2 was repealed they were going to go to other municipalities to get similar ordinances passed.”
Hardister said that the fact that Charlotte had not repealed the ordinance as it said it had along with the activities of the LGBT rights groups like Equality NC, caused some Republicans to decide they wouldn’t support a repeal until a permanent solution was formulated. Hardister said he believed the temporary moratorium would have been sufficient, but not all Republican representatives agreed.
Because of those statements and the fact that the legislature had been called into session under false pretenses, since Charlotte had not yet repealed the ordinance, the Republicans who supported the repeal decided that they had to have a moratorium to keep a city from passing similar legislation.
Hardister said the Democrats he talked to said they could go along with the repeal and the moratorium, and with the Republicans split, the leadership knew it would take the support of some Democrats to pass the repeal.
Hardister said that the repeal originated in the Senate, which was also divided.
Wade said that when the Senate couldn’t get a copy of what Charlotte had passed, that raised red flags. And then, when it was discovered that Charlotte hadn’t actually repealed the ordinance, it became obvious that “We couldn’t trust Charlotte.”
Wade said, “We realized Charlotte was playing games.” And she added that cost the repeal Republican votes. But she said the Republicans in the Senate kept the Democrats informed about what was happening and the Republicans were told that the Democrats were going to go along with the repeal and moratorium. It wasn’t until the bill was brought to the floor that Berger found out the Democrats, despite what they had said, had changed their minds and would not support the repeal and moratorium.
What happened was that Cooper called Democrats in the Senate and House and told them not to vote for the repeal and moratorium.
Hardister said, “The only reason the repeal didn’t pass was Roy Cooper contacted Democrats in the legislature and told them to pull the plug.”
The reason given for withdrawing support reportedly was because of the moratorium. But with efforts already underway to have some city pass a similar ordinance, it would have been foolhardy for the legislature to repeal HB2 without a moratorium in place.
Hardister and Wade both said the reason the Democrats pulled out of the deal was because they can use HB2 to raise money. It’s an issue with that has interest nationwide, and Cooper raised a lot of money in his race because of HB2.
Hardister also speculated that Cooper didn’t want HB2 repealed until he took office on Jan. 1 so that he could take full credit for having the law repealed.
Republican Rep. John Blust said, “Apparently, Charlotte tried to pull a fast one.”
The House didn’t even vote on the bill because it had to pass the Senate first and would then go to the House for a vote. Since the bill failed in the Senate, the House went down to Raleigh and the only thing the House voted on was adjournment.
Blust said he assumed that when he went down to Raleigh they had the votes for repeal. He said, “Why would they call us into session if they don’t have the votes?” And it appears leadership had every reason to believe they did have the votes, right up until Cooper decided to start working against it.
The Republicans in the Senate tried a couple of different moratoriums, one was for six months, and that was revised so it would end after the long session starting in January ended. But the Democrats said a moratorium was a deal breaker, something they hadn’t said earlier in the day.
If the Democrats had been operating in good faith, the temporary moratorium should not have been a problem because the idea was to go back to the status quo before the Charlotte ordinance was passed, when there was no specific ordinance or statute setting a statewide policy for the usage of bathroom and shower facilities.
Hardister said an issue the legislature is going to have to deal with in the long session is how much authority do municipalities have to deal with issues like minimum wage and who goes to what bathroom.
Cooper has been behind the whole HB2 debacle from the beginning. He encouraged Charlotte to pass the ordinance mandating gender-neutral bathroom and locker room facilities. Twice earlier this year, when the legislature and Charlotte were close to reaching an agreement to go back to the way things were before the Charlotte ordinance, Cooper stepped in and made sure that didn’t happen.
Cooper used the HB2 issue to raise over $22 million, much of it from out of state, for his gubernatorial campaign, so he had a lot invested in the issue.
When word came out that Charlotte had repealed its ordinance, the assumption by some was that Cooper had used HB2 to get elected and was willing to let the issue go. It seemed to be an indication that he was clearing out a divisive issue in order to work with the Republican legislature during his term as governor.
It turns out that was all wishful thinking. It was all a ploy to make McCrory and the Republican-led legislature look bad one last time. Cooper knows that whatever he does, the mainstream media are going to take his side of the issue, and true to form the mainstream media are blaming the Republican-led legislature for going into special session and 16 Republican senators for voting to repeal HB2.
It does raise the question, if HB2 is so bad, why did every Democratic state senator vote against repealing it? The vote was up or down, and the single issue was repealing HB2. The 16 Republican state senators voted against the repeal, some because they want a permanent rather than a temporary solution and some because they support HB2. But the Democratic state senators voted against the repeal because they said they are in favor of the repeal. It makes no sense because it was a purely political vote. The Democrats actually voted against the repeal because they didn’t want to remove a valuable issue from the table.
What this whole event proves is that Cooper is going to make no attempt to get along with the Republican legislature, which may turn out to be his undoing because it is the legislature in North Carolina, not the governor, that has the power.
The Republicans have a veto-proof majority in both the House and the Senate. Cooper can veto whatever he wants, and as long as the Republicans stick together they can override his veto every time. It will take some party discipline, particularly in the House, but it appears Cooper and the legislature will not be working together.
Most of what anyone knows about HB2 is what they have read or heard in the media, and most of that has been nothing short of propaganda.
Imagine this sentence; “In downtown Greensboro, transgender people are not allowed to cross the street except in designated areas and when a light flashes walk.” That sounds horribly discriminatory against transgender people and it makes you wonder what kind of homophobic City Council would pass such a law.
By the way, the sentence is true. What is left out of the sentence is the fact that the law is not just for transgender people, it is for everyone. The same is true of HB2. Nowhere in the law does it mention “transgender.”
The media continues to report that the law requires transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate and that is true, but also misleading, because it requires everyone to use the restroom or shower facility in accordance with the sex on their birth certificate in government buildings. Private companies can do what they want.
The law is not for transgender people but for everyone. And the Charlotte ordinance would not allow transgender people to use whatever restroom or facility they wanted, it would allow everyone to use whatever facility they wanted.