RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - A bipartisan coalition formed to pass a bill that would alter portions of the controversial HB2 legislation, passed during a one-day special session earlier this year, fell apart Thursday afternoon amid pressure from Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Republican leadership in the North Carolina House of Representatives was preparing to bring legislation that would alter several portions of HB2 to the floor for a vote late Thursday afternoon, On Your Side Investigates has learned.
A person involved in efforts to bring the bill to a vote, who asked their name be withheld in order to discuss details of internal deliberations within House Republican leadership, said efforts to bring the bill to the floor fell apart amid wavering support from a group of House Democrats.
On Your Side Investigates has confirmed a group of up to ten House Democrats had originally signed on to support the bill. A number of people in that group changed their mind, though, after receiving calls from Cooper.
"We started losing Democrats," the person involved in the negotiations said. "We were told Cooper was making personal phone calls to the ten Democratic members saying if they wanted to be on the team in November they needed to vote against the bill."
Cooper is the Democratic nominee for North Carolina Governor. His race against Republican Governor Pat McCrory is expected to remain close through the election in November.
On Your Side Investigates has learned of at least four members who received calls from Cooper Thursday, including Representatives Garland Pierce (D-Scotland), Michael Wray (D-Halifax), Ken Goodman (D-Richmond) and Howard Hunter (D-Hertford).
Of the four members who received a call from Cooper, two did not return a phone call or email from On Your Side Investigates seeking comment. One member acknowledged he had a conversation with Cooper Thursday that included discussion of HB2, but would not provide specifics.
NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Wooohouse sent out a statement in response to On Your Side Investigates' report.
"This report raises serious questions about the ethics and motivation of Attorney General Roy Cooper," the statement read. "In this case it appears Cooper chose work against the interests of the people of North Carolina and his client, the State itself."
In an email Friday afternoon, Wray denied having been contacted by Cooper on Wednesday.
A spokesman for Cooper disputed the notion that any members were pressured over their support of the proposed legislation.
"Attorney General Cooper remains concerned about the damage HB 2 is doing to our economy and has consistently urged members to pursue a full repeal," Cooper campaign communications director Ford Porter said in a statement. "Unfortunately Governor McCrory and legislative Republicans have repeatedly offered so-called 'fixes' that fail the basic test of undoing the economic damage done by this discriminatory law. This isn't that complicated: instead of pointing fingers and holding secret negotiations, lawmakers should simply repeal HB 2 and send a message that North Carolina is open for business."