I spent Wednesday afternoon trying to figure out what was going on in Raleigh.
Even after the legislature adjourned from its special session and I found out what happened, I’m not sure it makes sense.
The state legislature did not repeal House Bill 2 (HB2) because all the Democrats voted against repealing the bill.
Much of the day was spent debating whether a moratorium should be attached to the repeal of the bill. President Pro Tem of the state Senate Phil Berger included a moratorium of six months on the bill to repeal HB2.
The reason for the moratorium is pretty simple. HB2 was passed because Charlotte passed an ordinance mandating gender-neutral bathrooms and showers. Charlotte repealed its ordinance, not on Monday, Dec. 19, as it reported, but on Wednesday, Dec. 21, after the special session had been called.
But if HB2 was repealed and there was no moratorium put in place, there would be nothing to stop Charlotte from passing the same ordinance tomorrow or next week, starting the whole saga over again.
And Charlotte doesn’t have to do it. Greensboro, Asheville, Durham or any municipality in the state could pass a similar ordinance and put the state right back at square one.
So it made sense for the Republicans to want to add a safety measure to make sure this was not a ploy by the left to bring the whole matter up again.
Wednesday, the legislature was called into special session by Gov. Pat McCrory because on Monday the Charlotte City Council announced it had repealed its gender neutral bathroom ordinance that led to the state passing the infamous HB2.
According to a press release from Berger’s office, “Roy Cooper killed its repeal Wednesday by pressuring Senate Democrats to vote it down.
The vote in the Senate was a straight up or down vote on repealing HB2. Sixteen Republican senators, including both Berger and state Sen. Trudy Wade, who both represent Guilford County, voted for the repeal.
All 16 Democratic senators, including state Sen. Gladys Robinson, who represents part of Guilford County, voted no.
In addition, 16 Republican senators voted against repealing HB2.
It was thought that to repeal HB2 would take a bipartisan effort because some Republicans in the legislature don’t want to repeal the bill. But to have the Democrats vote against repealing a bill that they criticized from the beginning is startling.
The press release from Berger’s office also states, “Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and Roy Cooper operated in bad faith by passing a secret partial repeal in a closed door meeting, and tried to claim credit for compromising on the same ‘deal’ they killed multiple times for their own political gain during the campaign season. But Senate Republicans kept their end of the deal anyway and voted to fully repeal HB2.”
Berger said, “Make no mistake: Roy Cooper and Senate Democrats killed the repeal of HB2, abandoning Roy Cooper’s commitment to avoid divisive issues by shooting down a temporary cooling off period on ordinances like the one that got us into this mess last March.”
It’s hard to figure out what the purpose of this entire ploy was by Cooper.
It appears he orchestrated the passage of the repeal of the Charlotte ordinance, which resulted in McCrory calling the legislature into special session as he had promised. But there was no reason for the legislature to even meet if the Democrats were being leaned on by Democratic Cooper to vote against repealing HB2.
You would expect the Democrats to jump at the chance to vote to repeal HB2. According to the Democrats, it is terrible legislation that discriminates against all kinds of people, so why wouldn’t the Democrats vote to repeal HB2?
The vote in the Senate was a simple vote on repealing HB2. If that motion had passed there would have been a second vote on the moratorium, but with the Democrats voting unanimously against repealing HB2 it failed and that was that.
The fact that the stumbling block was a moratorium that would not allow the Democrats to come right back and pass a similar ordinance after HB2 was repealed would make one think that was the plan all along.
If the Democratic plan was to get HB2 repealed and then immediately pass ordinances in other cities that replicated Charlotte’s ordinance, the Democrats must think the Republicans are pretty dumb.
So the bottom line on all this is that this week Roy Cooper caused all kinds of problems for people all across the state and didn’t accomplish anything.
On Wednesday, we are right where we were on Monday, except that Charlotte held a special meeting to repeal the rest of the ordinance and legislators from across the state spent the day in Raleigh arguing with each other when they could have been somewhere else doing something useful.
It is difficult to see what Cooper gained.
But one thing this does prove beyond any doubt is that Cooper was behind the Charlotte ordinance and HB2 from the beginning. It appears to be what got Cooper elected governor, and it would appear that Cooper is not finished with HB2 yet.
It helped Cooper raise a bunch of money and maybe he wants to raise a little more.
If the current court ruling holds, then the state legislators will be running in 2017 for a one-year term. If that happens it’s going to be an election like no other, and nobody knows what may happen. Cooper and the Democrats may be counting on HB2 to raise money to run in 2017.
Or maybe Cooper wanted to give the legislature a hard time because, in the special session of the legislature last week, the legislature did what you would expect a legislative body with an overwhelming Republican majority and a Democratic governor-elect to do: The legislature took away some of the power of the governor.
It made his appointments to high level offices subject to approval from the state Senate, and greatly reduced the number of jobs that are political appointments. It took away the governor’s appointment powers to state university boards.
The legislature made the boards of elections equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. Under the old law, the governor’s party got two appointments to the board of elections in each county and the opposing party got one. The governor’s party also got to appoint a majority of the members of the State Board of Election.
Something the legislature is going to have to consider is that the number of unaffiliated voters is growing faster than either party. Maybe it’s time they had some representation on boards of elections.
Cooper, the Democrats and the mainstream media are all hollering and complaining about the Republicans taking away the power of a duly elected official. But every member of the state House and state Senate is duly elected also. The Democrats did it when a Republican was elected governor, and now the Republicans are doing it back to a Democrat. It’s politics. The legislature has not done anything outside of its powers.
In a split government each side grabs as much power as it can.
North Carolina has a weak governor, which puts Cooper in a difficult spot.
After losing a couple of early battles with the legislature, McCrory, as governor, appeared to concentrate on economic development. With his experience as the mayor of Charlotte it made sense, and McCrory was really making a difference on the economic development front.
Cooper has never seemed that interested in economic development, but the legislature is making it clear that the legislature, not the governor, runs the State of North Carolina, and that is the way it has been going back to colonial times.
When North Carolina won its freedom, it didn’t want any more royal governors. North Carolina, as a result, historically has had a weak governor.
Up until Jim Hunt came along, the North Carolina governor couldn’t run for reelection and didn’t have veto power. Hunt got both of those passed during his 16 years as governor.
Bills in North Carolina don’t have to be signed by the governor; they become law anyway. Cooper will be able to veto any law he chooses but the Republicans have veto-proof majorities in both houses, so it isn’t likely that will work for Cooper very often.
The legislators evidently are not going to create two new Supreme Court judgeships and have McCrory appoint them, although the legislature does have the power to do that and a lot of pundits predicted that it would.
It doesn’t appear that the legislature is overly concerned about having the NC Supreme Court rule that bills are unconstitutional. Maybe they know something the rest of us don’t.
The legislature also made some changes to the way the North Carolina Court of Appeals hears cases and we’ll have more on that later.