RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) --At a hastily called news conference, NC GOP leaders said Tuesday evening that they had an agreement in principle with a proposal made by Gov. Roy Cooper over House Bill 2.
In a stunning development, they then accused Cooper of denying making such a proposal.
"He made a proposal," Senate Leader Phil Berger said. "We've been in discussion with our folks, and with the governor's people and with some folks in the business community."
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Republicans called a news conference Tuesday night to make a "major announcement" over HB2.
"We're not sure exactly where we are right now, quite frankly," Berger told reporters. "We were prepared to have (Cooper) work with the Democrats to get Democratic support and we were going to work with our caucus to get Republican support."
Chris Sgro, of Equality NC, seemed astounded by the GOP's proceedings.
"This was a bizarre political stunt if I've ever seen one," Sgro told ABC11.
Read all ABC11 stories about HB2 here
Berger said it was a four-point plan and that Republicans were prepared to agree to those points.
According to the GOP leaders, the points were:
- 1. Repeals HB2;
- 2. Guarantees privacy in bathrooms and shower facilities by leaving regulation of multi-occupancy facilities to the state, returning to the status quo prior to passage of Charlotte's bathroom ordinance that women and girls should not have to share bathrooms with men;
- 3. Authorizes local governments to pass employment and accommodation non-discrimination ordinances, provided they are consistent with federal employment and accommodation non-discrimination law; and
- 4. Protects the rights of conscience by allowing citizens to collect court costs and attorney fees if they successfully pursue legal action proving a violation of their constitutional rights, as protected by Article I Section 13 of the North Carolina Constitution and the First Amendment.
"I was taken aback that the governor disavowed ever having made the proposal," Berger said
"This is all about laying blame, and not fixing problems," Rep. Darren Jackson, a Democrat, and the House Minority Leader, fired back in response.
The proposal was made by the governor's attorney, Berger said.
When asked how this news was different than a day earlier, Berger said "We had not accepted (Cooper's) proposal yesterday."
The proposal was not in bill form, Berger said, and was not yet ready for a vote.
Asked whether pressure from the NCAA, which said Tuesday that if North Carolina doesn't repeal HB2 in 48 hours, it will lose NCAA championship events through 2022, contributed to the proposed agreement and news conference, Berger replied, "No, we've actually been talking with the governor's folks for weeks now."
The NCAA moved championship events out of North Carolina this academic year because of its opposition to the law enacted in March 2016. The group has said it will begin this week choosing sites for its championship events from 2018 to 2022, and will announce them in a few weeks. North Carolina cities, schools and other groups have offered more than 130 such bids.
READ HOUSE BILL 186, DISCUSSED LAST WEEK AS POSSIBLE HB2 REPEAL (.pdf)
In a statement after the news conference, Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said:
"We believe the four points in Gov. Cooper's compromise proposal represent a path forward by repealing House Bill 2, protecting citizens' privacy in bathrooms and changing rooms, authorizing local governments to adopt anti-discrimination ordinances consistent with federal law, and providing legal protections for violations of constitutional rights of conscience. We believe if the governor can get Democratic legislators to support the principles outlined in his proposal, we can pass a bipartisan bill that will put the distraction of HB2 behind us once and for all."
Cooper's spokesman, Ford Porter, responded to the GOP news conference in a statement:
"It's frustrating that Republican leaders are more interested in political stunts than negotiating a compromise to repeal HB2. While Governor Cooper continues to work for a compromise, there are still issues to be worked out, and Republican leaders' insistence on including an Indiana-style RFRA provision remains a deal-breaker. Any compromise must work to end discrimination, repair our reputation, and bring back jobs and sports, and a RFRA is proven to do just the opposite."
But Porter acknowledged later in an email that Cooper's office had drawn up the provisions while "working in good faith on potential suggestions to change fundamentally flawed language." He said "Republicans dismissed our suggestions, and it ultimately became clear that more drastic revisions would be needed to prevent HB2 from being replaced with another bad law."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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