Tuesday, January 25, 2022

7 things to know about the pending House Bill 2 repeal

— If all goes as planned, North Carolina lawmakers will use a special session Wednesday to overturn House Bill 2, a measure limiting LGBT rights.

Here’s what you need to know in advance of the session:

HOW WE GOT HERE: Early in the year, Charlotte’s City Council passed a local ordinance that, among other things, required businesses to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice. As the local law was pending, lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory warned the state would intervene if it passed. Charlotte passed the ordinance anyway, and although McCrory balked at calling a special session, lawmakers called themselves back to Raleigh in March. They passed the measure known as House Bill 2.

WHAT IT DOES: House Bill 2 reached into several areas of law, including the following:

  • It requires individuals to use the bathroom, locker room or shower that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificates if they are in a government-owned building. That rule applies to state-owned facilities, such as University of North Carolina campuses, as well as local government buildings such as K-12 public schools and city halls.
  • It restricts any local minimum wage laws, a provision that sponsors of the bill says was merely a clarification of existing law rather than all new language.
  • It established a statewide nondiscrimination law that does not include LGBT protections. At the same time, it prohibits local governments from expanding protections in ordinances or contracting regulations beyond the guidelines of that statewide nondiscrimination law, effectively barring local governments from extending ad hoc protections for the LGBT community.
  • As originally written, the bill would have eliminated the right to sue for all kinds of employment discrimination in state court. That provision was subsequently rolled back, but would-be plaintiffs have a shorter period of time to seek relief than they did previously.

WHAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK: The Charlotte City Council voted 10-0 Monday to roll back the bulk of its ordinance. That is reportedly part of a larger deal with lawmakers to roll back House Bill 2 by Dec. 31. McCrory then called the legislature back into session.

WHAT HAPPENS TODAY: The House and the Senate convene at 10 a.m. Both chambers must pass the same bill, and the House is expected to move the measure first. If all goes as planned, lawmakers could finish their work by mid-afternoon.

The state House passed House Bill 2 with a 86-26 vote in March, with 11 Democrats voting with Republicans to pass the measure. In the Senate, Democrats walked out of the chamber rather than participate in the vote, allowing the measure to pass 32-0.

If there is any drama Wednesday, it will have to do with which members do and do not show up for a session called four days before Christmas and whether that mix includes a sufficient number of Democrats and deal-making Republicans to overcome more conservative members of the GOP.

WHY REPEAL NOW: Republicans have decried Charlotte’s action as a political stunt for much of the year and claim Gov.-elect Roy Cooper and fellow Democrats blocked prior deals. But Democrats say those offers were not for total repeals and often came with strings attached. Both Cooper and McCrory have claimed credit for brokering this latest compromise and blame one another for the rancor surrounding the issue.

WHO WANTS REPEAL: Businesses and their trade groups have been complaining loudly for months that House Bill 2 is costing the state business. A variety of conventions, concerts and sports tournaments have moved or canceled events scheduled for North Carolina, although the discernable overall economic impact is relatively small on the state’s economy. The law also became a liability for some suburban Republicans, some of who like Sen. Tamara Barringer, R-Wake, and Rep. Chris Malone, R-Wake, called for repeal during the fall campaign.

Of course, groups representing LGBT interests, such as Equality North Carolina and the Human Rights Campaign, also have called for repeal ever since the measure was passed.

WHO WANTS TO KEEP HB2: Social conservatives represented by groups such as the Family Policy Council and the Christian Action League are urging lawmakers to keep House Bill 2 on the books. “We think it’s ridiculous to be considering any type of repeal of House Bill 2,” said Tami Fitzgerald of the North Carolina Values Coalition. “I would urge all the legislators that voted for House Bill 2 stand strong on it.”

A special thank you to our friends at WRAL for helping out with this post.

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