NC GOP leaders meet with Gov. Cooper over HB2 repeal talk

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The NCAA is threatening to pull more games from North Carolina if House Bill 2 is not repealed (WTVD)

Efforts among North Carolina leaders to take the state's "bathroom bill" off the books before a deadline to stem further economic losses evaporated late Tuesday and devolved into more finger-pointing by Republican lawmakers and the Democratic governor.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger held an early evening news conference to announce they had agreed in principle on a four-point plan they said was proposed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who has been calling for a full repeal. But they said Cooper had backed out of the offer minutes before the news conference.

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ABC11 has learned NC GOP leaders met with Gov. Roy Cooper at the Executive Mansion Tuesday night after the press conference.

"I do take some hope from the fact that even after the President Pro Tempore and Speaker Moore had a news conference where they trashed Governor Cooper that they were still at least willing to talk," said Rep. Grier Martin (D-District 34).

Rep. Martin said Democrats would have known if the Governor was considering such a proposal and adds they would never have agreed to it.

Read all ABC11 stories about HB2 here

"The news conference appears to be a theatrical negotiating tactic to try to push the Governor and Democrats in the General Assembly to agree to an extremist proposal," Martin said, adding that the proposal discussed by GOP leaders would not remove discrimination or bring back jobs.

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.

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.


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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