The Republicans in Raleigh were celebrating after the House Bill 2 (HB2) repeal because they got a much better deal when Gov. Roy Cooper signed House Bill 142 (HB142) than they thought possible.
If you want to know who won that battle, just look at where the demonstrators were after the deal to repeal HB2 was announced. The protestors were in front of the governor’s mansion, not the legislative building.
Nobody is going to go on the record about what happened behind the scenes – so don’t look for any quotes – but what happened was that North Carolina’s President Pro Tem of the Senate Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Tim Moore gave Cooper a lesson in hardball politics.
Cooper made an offer to Berger and Moore that Cooper didn’t think they would ever accept. Cooper’s plan was for the Republican leadership to reject the offer and then Cooper could talk about how he had made a great offer and the Republicans were intransigent.
Berger and Moore, however, went to work lining up votes to accept Cooper’s offer, and last Tuesday, March 28, they held a press conference that was supposed to be to announce the issue had been settled. However, Cooper wasn’t prepared to accept his own offer and claimed he didn’t make it.
One of the first rules of politics is that if you’re going to back out of a deal, make sure nothing is written down. At the press conference called to announce the deal, Berger held up and distributed copies of the proposal from Cooper’s office. The deal that Cooper’s attorney proposed was the one that was accepted.
So Berger and Moore had Cooper backed into a corner. Cooper made the proposal and they accepted it and had the emails to prove it.
After that press conference – which at the time seemed like a fiasco but was actually just some political theater – Cooper had to settle down and make a deal.
Back in December, when a special session of the legislature was called to repeal HB2 and a six month moratorium was added to prevent cities from immediately passing a Charlotte-type ordinance, Cooper killed the deal.
The Democrats in the state Senate said they didn’t have a problem with the repeal or the moratorium, but Cooper did and convinced all the Democrats in the Senate to vote against even the up-or-down vote on the straight repeal without the moratorium attached.
So in December, Cooper was opposed to even a possibility of a moratorium, but after Berger and Moore called his bluff, Cooper agreed to a moratorium of almost four years.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) lobby – which had heavily supported Cooper in his race against former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory – are furious with Cooper for supposedly selling them out.
HB2 was probably the deciding factor in the governor’s race, but not for the reason that most assume. HB2 allowed Cooper to raise money nationwide for his campaign that he would not have had access to if not for the HB2 issue. Because of HB2, Cooper was able to raise millions more for his campaign than McCrory and, in politics, usually the candidate with the most money wins.
Now both the ACC and the NCAA have agreed to lift the boycott of North Carolina for championships.
No word yet on whether Bruce Springsteen will agree to perform in Greensboro, but it seems the ACC and the NCAA are what really had North Carolinians upset.
North Carolina is passionate about college basketball and the idea that Greensboro would never again host the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament turned some otherwise strong conservatives against HB2. They may be strong conservatives but they are rabid basketball fans.
The bill that passed, HB142, passed with bipartisan support in both the state House and Senate. The Republicans on the far right and the Democrats on the far left voted against it.
The state would actually benefit if more bills passed with support from both parties, but don’t expect that to happen. What is far more likely to happen is for the Republicans to pass bills that Cooper vetoes and then the Republicans will override his veto.
The really good news is that now that HB2 is off the table, the legislature can get down to more important issues then who goes in which bathroom. The HB2 repeal takes the state back to where it was before Charlotte passed an ordinance requiring gender-neutral bathrooms with statewide reach.
Although the bathroom issue may be behind the state, the battle between cities and the state government is not likely to go away anytime soon, nor is the split in the state between rural and urban – which is becoming more divided. Despite the growth of Charlotte, Raleigh and other cities, the rural population is still larger in North Carolina than the urban population. It was one of the factors that made the repeal of HB2 difficult. Although it was a big issue in the major cities that were losing events and some new businesses, HB2 didn’t have much effect in rural areas, which made it difficult to get support from the elected officials representing those areas.