Special session of divided legislature closes with no ruling on HB2

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RALEIGH — HB2 proved too contentious for even the Republican House and Senate super-majorities, as the fifth special session of the General Assembly was adjourned without a vote.

The day began with the introduction of Senate Bill 3, which included only the repeal of HB2. The bill was sponsored by Senate Democrats Jeff Jackson, Mike Woodard and Terry Van Duyn. Senate Republicans, ignoring SB3, put forward their own bill. Senate Bill 4, which would have repealed HB2, also added a “Cooling Off Period.” The statute read:

Six-Month Cooling-Off Period. – No local government in this State may enact or amend an ordinance regulating employment practices or regulating public 7 accommodations or access to restrooms, showers, or changing facilities. 

Democrats objected strongly to the added statute, which would prevent cities or counties from passing additional protective LGBQT legislation. Sen. Van Duyn said the cooling-off period would “simply continue to prolong the problem.” Democrats unanimously voted against the bill.

Sen. Phil Berger, who sponsored Republican’s Sb4, called the Democrats action “hypocrisy,” adding “Republicans gave Senate Democrats a straight up or down vote on repealing HB2 in its entirety. All 16 of them voted NO.”

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Vote record from the Republican-sponsored SB4. Democrat ‘NO’ votes highlighted. (Courtesy NC Senator Phil Berger).

But, according to the vote record posted by Sen. Berger, 16 Senate Republicans voted against the bill (Senator Michael Lee, who represents New Hanover county, and Bill Rabon, who represents parts of Bladen, Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties both voted in favor of the repeal).

It was not immediately clear what, specifically, divided Republicans directly down the middle. Republican Senator Jeff Tarte, in his analysis of the bill’s failure, said only “the GOP was split.” The Senator was equanimous in his disappointment, blaming both Republicans and Democrats for the failure:

“Go ahead and criticize any and all the elected that participated in this effort. We deserve it. It is a shame we did not accomplish the repeal and reset. It is a shame we have not stopped the hurt. It is a shame we are not working on a solution that heals our community and state.”

With the holidays days away, and the General Assembly in recess until swearing-in ceremonies on Jan, 11, 2017, calls to area Senators and Representatives were not immediately returned. However, within hours of yesterday’s adjournment, Republican and Democrat lawmakers were already casting blame – and pointing fingers over the cost of the special session, which will be footed by North Carolina taxpayers.

After the House of Representatives adjourned their session, Susi Hamilton tweeted: “If #ncsen adjourns the #ncga has wasted another $42k of taxpayer money for nothing. Nothing passed today.” Hamilton followed up with a press release today, stating:

Our economy has been held hostage for ten months by HB2. Finally, we had some hope when a special session to repeal the bill was called. Charlotte had done their part, paving the way for a bi-partisan compromise. The Republican leadership failed to live up to their word. The 42 thousand dollars of NC taxpayer money wasted yesterday pales in comparison to the thousands of jobs lost and millions of dollars spent by companies going to other states because of HB2. Wednesday’s actions dashed the hopes of many who truly want to believe that their government can work for them.   

The Senate adjourned at the end of Wednesday, with Republicans’ bill blocked by their own party.

Robin Hayes, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, made serious allegations of “lies” and “collusion” against Roy Cooper in a statement that called on him to “pay for cost [the] smoke and mirror session.” Hayes statement read:

ncgop-smoke-and-mirrors-statement

Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state Republican Party, went further, directly blaming the failures of the day on Charlotte City Council for not fully repealing their legislation (the LGBQT protection measures that sparked Republicans to file HB2). Woodhouse said: “The HB2 blood is now stain soaked on their hands and theirs alone. What a dishonest, disgraceful shame by Roy Cooper and Charlotte Democrats.”

The General Assembly will not have another serious opportunity to consider HB2 until their next legislative meeting on Jan. 25. Some athletic tournaments are still planning on relocating from the area if the bill is not repealed (read about those stories here and here).