News, Special Session

Legislators in surprise special session considered provision to give McCrory health care for life

Pat McCrory and the NCGAThe News and Observer reported on Christmas Day that legislation drafted but not enacted at a recent surprise special session would have kept outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory on the State Health Plan after he left office, meaning he would have received free health coverage for life.

The health care provision would have also made any outgoing Council of State member eligible for free health insurance after serving at least half a term in office, according to the newspaper.

The provision did not end up in a publicly filed bill. But the provision was discussed in closed-door Republican caucus meetings last week before it was dropped from one of the bills that swept through the legislature and reduced Cooper’s authority over appointments.

“There was a great deal of empathy for McCrory: He gave it all he could,” said Rep. Leo Daughtry of Smithfield, a Republican. “People ought to help him as much as we could.”

Daughtry and other legislators said the proposal didn’t advance far. House Speaker Tim Moore said there were too many other issues under consideration to spend much time working on the provision that would have helped McCrory, a one-term Republican.

“With all the other stuff we’ve been dealing with, that took so little bandwidth,” Moore said. “I mean, it was just a conversation about ‘this is the idea, here’s the reason,’ and the cost was just very minimal.”

Moore said the intention wasn’t to single out McCrory but to extend insurance coverage to Council of State members, noting that General Assembly members also qualify for insurance, and there has long been interest in extending that benefit to those elected department heads.

“You get folks who will leave a career in the private sector, come in for a short stint, whether it’s four years or even if it’s eight years, and they can’t fully vest for benefits,” Moore said. “If you want highly qualified people to run for those offices, it’s something you need to consider.”

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Commentary, News, Special Session

This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Three simple truths about the legislature’s failure to repeal HB2

Here are three simple truths about yesterday’s on again, off again circus at the state Legislative Building at which state lawmakers wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars and person hours and further damaged the state’s reputation in an unsuccessful special session that was supposed to have repealed North Carolina’s all-purpose LGBT discrimination law, HB2:

#1 – The notion pushed by Senate leader Phil Berger and others that Democrats and Gov.-elect Roy Cooper were somehow responsible for the failure is utterly preposterous. [Read more…]

2. Reader Questions on Failed HB2 Repeal

Since yesterday’s failure to pass a repeal of HB2 in a hastily arranged extra session of the North Carolina General Assembly, we’ve gotten a number of questions from readers via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

Wherever you stand on the underlying issues, it’s be easy to get  confused about some of what’s happened in the last week. It’s complicated, it happened quickly and a number of politically-motivated narratives about what happened and why have emerged.

Here are answers – as best we can manage – for a few of the most-asked questions we’ve seen.[Read more…]

Anti-HB2 sign3. Legislature fails to repeal HB2 in special session; Senator says ‘we’re worse off now’ than before

In true North Carolina General Assembly fashion, all the fireworks of the fifth special legislative session of the year went off in the 11th hour – or rather, the ninth hour for those keeping track of the day.

Legislators were called to Raleigh to repeal House Bill 2 after Charlotte repealed its anti-discrimination ordinance. They left without repealing anything.

There were two bills filed Wednesday in the Senate — one introduced by Democrats to repeal HB2 in full and the other introduced by Republicans to repeal HB2 with a six-month “cooling-off period” that would prevent local governments from enacting ordinances “regulating employment practices or regulating public accommodations or access to restrooms, showers, or changing facilities.” [Read more…]


4. Roy Cooper: Legislature failed North Carolina by not repealing HB2 in full

Gov. elect Roy Cooper addressed media Wednesday night after legislators failed at a special session to repeal House Bill 2.

“Today, the legislature had a chance to do the right thing for North Carolina and they failed,” he said.

Charlotte repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance on the promise that the legislature would repeal the sweeping anti-LGBTQ bill. Cooper said at the press conference that brokering the deal was a lot of work, and he knew there were enough Republican and Democrat votes to fully repeal the law. [Read more…]

***Bonus video: Cooper: GOP’s failure to abide by brokered deal doomed HB2’s full repeal

5. State Board of Education talks possible lawsuit over legislative limits to their power

Calling House Bill 17 an attempt to “diminish the board’s constitutional authority,” State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey and the members of the state’s governing public school panel retired to close session to discuss their response with attorneys Tuesday morning.

Board members indicated they would not be returning to open session to discuss the matter Tuesday , which means that the panel isn’t likely to approve any lawsuits against the legislature today. Such an action would have to be conducted in open session under open records laws.

Tuesday’s specially called meeting comes hours after Gov. Pat McCrory signed the controversial Republican-led bill, which imposes strict limits on Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper and Cobey’s board. [Read more…]

HB2, News, Special Session

ACLU condemns legislature for not repealing HB2

The ACLU and Lamda Legal released a statement last night condemning the legislature for not repealing House Bill 2 during the fifth special session of the year.

The sweeping anti-LGBTQ legislation was promised to be repealed if Charlotte repealed a non-discrimination ordinance it had in place. After a nine hour session, the House and Senate adjourned after much debate but no repeal action.

The ACLU’s statement:

H.B. 2 bans transgender people from accessing restrooms and public facilities consistent with their gender identity and prevents local municipalities from extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people. H.B. 2 is estimated to have cost North Carolina over $600 million in lost revenue from businesses concerned with the discriminatory nature of the law, and was a contributing factor in the election defeat of the outgoing Governor Pat McCrory.

“The General Assembly and Governor McCrory are playing political chicken, and North Carolinians continue to lose for it. It is an outrage that North Carolina’s lawmakers could not follow the mandate of the voters and repeal H.B. 2,” said Simone Bell, Southern Regional Director at Lambda Legal. “As long as H.B. 2 is on the books, thousands of LGBT people who call North Carolina home, especially transgender people, are being discriminated against and will never feel safe. This was a counterproductive exercise in reaffirming to the rest of the country that North Carolina wants to remain mired in this divisive dispute.”

“It is a shame that North Carolina’s General Assembly is refusing to clean up the mess they made. The support for the LGBT community from political leaders, faith leaders, businesses, and everyday people that has emerged this year will not fade. These attempts to expel transgender people from public life will not be tolerated,” said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project. “The legislature may not be willing to undo their unconstitutional overreach and respect the rights of LGBT people, so we’ll just have to see them in court.”

The ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal and the law firm of Jenner & Block are challenging H.B. 2 in federal court on behalf of four LGBT North Carolinians and members of the ACLU of North Carolina.

With H.B. 2 in place, transgender North Carolinians are barred from using the restrooms they had used day in and day out without incident prior to the passage of the anti-trans measure in March. The repeal of H.B.2 would bring essential and immediate relief to transgender people across the state who had been put in the perilous position of being forced to avoid public restrooms or risk violation of state law.

“We will continue to fight in court for transgender people to access the restrooms that correspond to their gender identity and for equal protection for the entire LGBT community in North Carolina. State-sanctioned discrimination is unacceptable. LGBT North Carolinians and millions around the country are anxious to see an end to these dangerous displays of intolerance,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina.

HB2, News, Special Session

Roy Cooper: Legislature failed North Carolina by not repealing HB2 in full

Gov. elect Roy Cooper addressed media Wednesday night after legislators failed at a special session to repeal House Bill 2.

“Today, the legislature had a chance to do the right thing for North Carolina and they failed,” he said.

Charlotte repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance on the promise that the legislature would repeal the sweeping anti-LGBTQ bill. Cooper said at the press conference that brokering the deal was a lot of work, and he knew there were enough Republican and Democrat votes to fully repeal the law.

“What I believe happened was their caucus buckled on them, and they didn’t have the guts to put the bill out on the floor for the votes,” he said. “Whatever they might say, it’s not true.”

Republicans have called HB2 a political stunt driven by Cooper and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts to rig the election.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said during the session that Cooper instructed Democrats to vote against the repeal. Cooper said he told Democrats to to stick to the full repeal deal, not the repeal with a cooling off period presented.

“This moratorium idea that sprung up in the last couple hours, it wouldn’t work – it doubles down on discrimination,” he said.

Cooper said the deal was struck with input from stakeholders, including the NCAA, NBA and the business community.

He also said it was disappointing to see such a breach of trust, not just with him, but with Charlotte and the citizens of North Carolina.

“What we’ve got do is somehow start again,” he said. “We have to fix this.”

He said people want to see government work together for the good of the state, and that HB2 would be repealed in the future because “this is not the kind of state we are.”

“This is too important,” Cooper said.

Click below to watch a portion of Governor-elect Cooper’s press conference following the failure of lawmakers to repeal HB2.

 

HB2, News, Special Session

Legislature fails to repeal HB2 in special session; Senator says ‘we’re worse off now’ than before

Anti-HB2 sign

North Carolinians in the Senate gallery brought signs showing their support for the repeal of HB2. Photo by Melissa Boughton

In true North Carolina General Assembly fashion, all the fireworks of the fifth special legislative session of the year went off in the 11th hour – or rather, the ninth hour for those keeping track of the day.

Legislators were called to Raleigh to repeal House Bill 2 after Charlotte repealed its anti-discrimination ordinance. They left without repealing anything.

There were two bills filed Wednesday in the Senate — one introduced by Democrats to repeal HB2 in full and the other introduced by Republicans to repeal HB2 with a six-month “cooling-off period” that would prevent local governments from enacting ordinances “regulating employment practices or regulating public accommodations or access to restrooms, showers, or changing facilities.”

The latter was taken up and sparked a heated debate.

Sen. Terry Van Duyne, D-Buncombe, raised her voice as she stood up and talked about her heartbreaking conversations with the LGBTQ community.

“These people are suffering every single day, and we are saying thats OK and that’s wrong,” she said. “This is tarnishing our reputation as a state that is open for business. That is a fact.”

Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, Granville, likened HB2 to discrimination in the Civil Rights Era, but was quickly told by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to spare everyone the history lesson.

“As much has been stated about pushing the reset button, [this bill] only pushes it halfway,” McKissick said. “It doesn’t get us back to the place we were. We need to go back and we need to reevaluate how we got to where we are.”

The ongoing Senate discussion ended abruptly with an unexplained 10-minute recess turned two-hour break, in which the House voted to adjourn with no action on an HB2 repeal. When the Senate finally returned, President Pro Tem Phil Berger introduced an amendment that lengthened the cooling-off period to 30-days after the long GA session in a move he described as a compromise.

The Democrats didn’t see it that way.

“I’m sorry,” said Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenberg. “This was not the deal.”

He said the deal was for Charlotte to repeal it’s ordinance and the legislature to repeal HB2, in full. A cooling-off period, he and other Democratic senators said, was not a full repeal.

Berger said the cooling-off period was to ensure other cities didn’t enact ordinances like Charlotte’s immediately following the repeal of HB2. He also said it would buy legislators time to work together toward a resolution.

The amendment was adopted despite the immediate death of two amendments Democrats previously tried to offer – one that would reduce the cooling period to three months and another that would change the language of a provision preventing cities from enacting ordinances having to do with minimum wage.

After another recess, Berger said Republicans didn’t believe Democrats that they truly wanted to repeal HB2, and that they were going to give them one last chance by splitting the bill into two parts. The first part was a simple HB2 repeal and the second was a cooling-off period on its own, and they would take separate votes.

“What you have before you is not some gimmick to create the best of both worlds,” Berger said, adding that it was a good faith effort on their part.

Senate floor

Pictured is the Senate floor.

Democratic leader Dan Blue, from Wake, pointed out that if both parts of the bill passed, they would again become one bill to be taken up in the House. He and other Democrats said the move was just another way for the Senate Republicans to pass what they wanted to pass.

When it came time for a vote, the first part, the simple repeal of HB2, failed, subsequently and ultimately killing the bill. Berger blamed the Democrats and said he couldn’t believe what happened.

Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Halifax, Nash, Vance, Warren, Wilson, called the bill and Berger’s attempt to split it smoke and mirrors, and asked who he thought was stupid enough to fall for it.

McKissick said he was afraid outsiders would read what happened at the special session as the state doubling down on discrimination.

“The worst part of this is that we’re worse off now than we were when we arrived,” he said. “Every day we let HB2 remain on the books is a scar on the name and reputation of North Carolina.”

He encouraged both parties to come together in the future to work collectively on a solution.

The Senate adjourned just before 7:30 p.m. without ever taking up the Democrats’ Senate bill that simply repealed HB2.

After the session, House Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, placed the blame largely on the Charlotte City Council – and especially Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

“There was a divide – that’s a fair statement to say – in the House Republican Caucus,” Lewis said. “But I think the divide was based on that we were called back, we were told that Charlotte had fully repealed, and come to find out that they had not.”

That bred mistrust in the GOP caucus, Lewis said, and Roberts’ previous clashes with the General Assembly led to a split that couldn’t be bridged to achieve repeal.

But Lewis also acknowledged a divide in the caucus over LGBT issues in general.

“I do think there is a gap in understanding,” Lewis said. “There’s a gap in maybe appreciation of some of the challenges that some of our fellow citizens face that we need to educate ourselves on and we need to explore more fully.”

Rep. Chris Agro, D-Guilford, is one of just two out LGBT legislators in the General Assembly. He also serves as executive director of LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina.

He said Charlotte, its mayor and its council acted in good faith this week to secure a full and unequivocal repeal of HB2 – but the General Assembly failed to follow through on their end of the bargain.

“The City of Charlotte was never the problem,” Sgro said. “They passed a best practice ordinance employed in hundreds of other cities like Jackson, Mississippi and Orlando, Florida. It was necessary to protect LGBT citizens. Unfortunately HB2 overturned that and all local non-discrimination ordinances and then went a step further – it didn’t just allow discrimination, it mandated discrimination. It continues to mandate discrimination.”

Joe Killian contributed to this report.