North Carolina Lawmakers Fail To Repeal Controversial Bathroom Law

Dec 21, 2016
Originally published on December 21, 2016 8:55 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

North Carolina's governor called the legislature into special session today, the fifth this year. The purpose - to repeal House Bill 2, the law that limits protections for LGBT people. It's known as the bathroom bill. Lawmakers have yet to repeal the law.

And to tell us where things stand now, we're joined by Jeff Tiberii, statehouse reporter with WUNC radio. And Jeff, what's happening right now at the state legislature there in Raleigh?

JEFF TIBERII, BYLINE: At this moment, the Republicans are trying to work on a piece of legislation that would have enough votes. What has been before the Senate is Senate Bill 4, and this would indeed repeal House Bill 2. At the same time, it would also mandate a cooling-off period for any municipality in the state, and it would prevent cities and counties and towns from passing any kind of nondiscrimination ordinance such as the one Charlotte did back in February that, you know, was one of the reasons that this ordeal has come about here in North Carolina.

Republican State Senator Phil Berger - he's perhaps the most powerful lawmaker in the state - said that this ultimately amounts to a reset.

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PHIL BERGER: It gives everyone an opportunity to start over. You don't get those chances very often. And that six-month cooling-off period - that's six months for us to work through this.

TIBERII: So that cooling off period, Ari, was initially going to be six months. Then after several long, closed-door meetings - at one point, Senate Republicans said they were going to have a 10-minute meeting, and it lasted two and a half hours.

Well, they came back, and it was - it turned out to be an amendment. So the cooling-off period would now be extended a little bit further. But it's still not clear if the votes are there.

SHAPIRO: The outgoing governor, McCrory, is a Republican. He called this session. Republicans control the legislature. Why isn't this process smoother?

TIBERII: (Laughter) In short because North Carolina politics lacks smoothness these days. The North Carolina House is a pretty diverse caucus. In terms of Republicans, there are 75 of them there. And we're talking about representatives that serve very deeply red districts, others who serve in suburban areas, others who even have some urban areas within their districts.

One of the chief complaints against the proposal thus far to repeal House Bill 2 is that it isn't actually, you know - it doesn't do what it says. And Chris Sgro, who's a Democratic representative, said just that. He said this would not be a true repeal.

CHRIS SGRO: I think it's nothing more than HB2.2. It doubles down on discrimination by continuing to preempt municipal-level nondiscrimination protections. It does so for six months right now. What's to say that they don't extend that another six months and another six months going into the future?

TIBERII: So Democrats are very skeptical of this at the moment. And as of right now, there are still not enough votes in the North Carolina House to advance a repeal and other stipulations of House Bill 2.

SHAPIRO: Jeff, this has become known as the bathroom bill, but it's actually much broader than that. Remind people of what this does.

TIBERII: It is. This deals with employment protections and raising the minimum wage at the local level. And beyond bathrooms, it would also - or it does prevent cities and municipalities from passing nondiscrimination ordinances of their own.

It also - if you were to be terminated and you believe it's because you're a member of the LGBT community or fired because of race, it also reduces the window of time that you have to file a lawsuit.

SHAPIRO: And this fits into a very messy political scene in North Carolina beyond just the repeal of this bill as well. Tell us how it fits into the larger picture.

TIBERII: Right. You mentioned the Republican governor a couple moments ago. Pat McCrory was a champion of House Bill 2. He lost in November in part because of this. Democratic Governor-elect Roy Cooper is coming in. And much of this whole scene right now is really a distraction from what happened last week, and that was a special session where lawmakers came in and removed significant executive powers from the Democratic governor-elect, just the latest thing that brought about controversy down here in Raleigh.

SHAPIRO: All right, that's Jeff Tiberii of WUNC. Thanks a lot.

TIBERII: My pleasure, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.