On Monday, Democratic and Republican leaders announced they’d reached a deal to repeal House Bill 2.
Two days later, the deal fell apart.
Three Senate Democrats introduced a bill (Senate Bill 3) that would have repealed HB2 in full without conditions – and by most accounts, a majority of state senators supported it. But Republican Senate leader Phil Berger never called for a vote on SB3 – because he couldn’t muster a majority of Republicans to support an unconditional repeal. (There’s an unwritten rule called the “Hastert rule,” which states that a floor leader should never bring a bill up for a vote unless it’s supported by a majority of their own party.)
What Sen. Berger proposed instead was Senate Bill 4 – which would have repealed HB2, but also imposed a moratorium temporarily banning local governments from passing any new anti-discrimination ordinances. (Berger called it a “cooling-off period.”) Senate Democrats refused to go along: House Bill 2 also bans local governments from passing anti-discrimination ordinances – in fact that’s one of its most controversial provisions – so Democrats said a “repeal-plus-moratorium” wasn’t really a “repeal” at all, especially since there was nothing keeping Republicans from extending a moratorium indefinitely. (HB2’s “bathroom” restrictions get the most press, but critics also cite the ban on local ordinances when they call HB2 the nation’s most anti-LGBT law: there are only two other states, Arkansas and Tennessee, that ban cities from protecting LGBT people from discrimination. It’s unclear whether such bans are even constitutional: the Supreme Court struck down a similar law in Colorado twenty years ago.)
With most Republicans opposed to a repeal and all Democrats opposed to a moratorium, Sen. Berger tried one last-ditch procedural move to pass his bill: he split it in half, calling for separate votes on a repeal and a moratorium. But the two halves were still tied to each other – neither would pass if either one failed – so Senate Democrats stood their ground and voted ‘no’ on the repeal. The General Assembly adjourned minutes later; the State House never even got a chance to vote.
What happened? What went on behind the scenes? How close did we come to a repeal? Why did Democrats consider a “moratorium” to be a dealbreaker? How can we rebuild trust across party lines? And what’s next for this issue in 2017?
WCHL’s Aaron Keck and Blake Hodge welcomed State Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Chapel Hill), an outspoken critic of HB2, for a conversation on Thursday afternoon.