McCrory's office: If Charlotte repeals ordinance, HB2 special session could happen

Proposal to repeal HB2
Published: Sep. 16, 2016 at 9:36 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2016 at 7:59 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The governor's office say it is possible that a special session could be called to repeal House Bill 2 if the Charlotte City Council votes to repeal its non-discrimination ordinance.

The statement comes after a state lobbyist group says the state's General Assembly could meet in a special session, as early as next week, if Charlotte's City Council repeals its non-discrimination ordinance.

The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA) sent a release Friday afternoon calling for "policy makers on all sides of this issue to work together to find resolution quickly."

NCRLA president and CEO Lynn Minges said she has received "assurances this week from legislative leadership," that if city council repeals the non-discrimination ordinance in its meeting Monday the General Assembly "is prepared to meet in special session as early as next week to repeal House Bill 2."

HB2 requires individuals to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificate in government buildings, schools and universities, and initially took away the ability of employees to sue their employers in state court for discrimination or wrongful termination, among other things.

Months later, the legislature voted only to change a portion of HB2 that stripped workers of the right to sue their employers for wrongful termination.

The bill was passed in a one-day special session in late March and was signed by Governor Pat McCrory later that night.

It came as a response to a non-discrimination ordinance passed in February by the Charlotte City Council. The ordinance broadly defined how businesses should treat gay, lesbian and transgender customers. The debate, as in other cities, focused on bathrooms.

"Furthermore, Governor Pat McCrory has assured NCRLA that he is willing to call legislators into a special session next week for this purpose if both the city and legislators have the votes for repeal," Minges  continued.

Governor Pat McCrory's communications director, Josh Ellis, says the governor has been saying House Bill 2 was only needed if the Charlotte ordinance remained in place.

"If the Charlotte City Council totally repeals the ordinance and then we can confirm there is support to repeal among the majority of state lawmakers in the House and Senate, the governor will call a special session," Ellis told WBTV. "It is the governor's understanding that legislative leaders and the lieutenant governor agree with that assessment."

The NCRLA says the state's hospitality industry has "become collateral damage in a fight it did not start or ask for."

Dallas Woodhouse, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts and Attorney General Roy Cooper are to blame.

"The NCGOP believes that Jennifer Roberts over reach [sic] and Roy Cooper's interference with previous negotiations are largely responsible for where we are," Woodhouse wrote. "They have worked to divide our citizens where six month [sic] ago no issue existed in Charlotte or anywhere else on this issue."

A spokesperson for the city of Charlotte said the city "received a statement from the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA) and is taking it under advisement at this time."

"We are in the process of evaluating any potential next steps," the statement continued.

Earlier Friday, Julie Eiselt, Charlotte Councilwoman at-large, told WBTV's Pam Escobar that council is meeting on Monday for a "lengthy zoning meeting" and the ordinance is not on the agenda.

"That's what they wanted us to do all along - to repeal it," Councilwoman Eiselt said of the NCRLA statement. She said the council has not met about that and she knows of "no plan to do anything right now."

Equality NC said the Charlotte non-discrimination ordinance is not to blame for the economic backlash the state of North Carolina is seeing right now.

"Hundreds of other cities across the nation already had in place a similar ordinance to Charlotte's. While important to the LGBT community, it was not unique," said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina. "What is unique and dangerous is HB2. It's HB2 that cost us the NCAA, ACC, and the NBA. It's HB2 that's causing us economic harm, and it's HB2 that needs to be repealed. Enough games and blame - repeal HB2."

"This is the same cheap trick the North Carolina General Assembly has attempted all along, asking Charlotte to repeal crucial protections for the LGBTQ community and trust they will hold up their end of the bargain on a full repeal of HB2," said JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs. "This arrangement would create problems, not solve them. It would require Charlotte to drop the very protections for the LGBTQ community that businesses, the NCAA and other organizations have now made clear are need and are a priority."

After the call from the NCRLA initially came out, Republican Senator Jeff Tarte wrote on Facebook that he didn't know if the call for the NCGA to a special session was real or not

Tarte is one of the 32 Republican senators who voted to pass House Bill 2 in last March.  He says there are conditions to repealing HB2.

"The Charlotte ordinance must be vacated/repealed. Resets us to the status quo as of January 2016," Tarte wrote on Facebook. "Second, we should establish a work group/commission of all stakeholders to begin a dialog to find a balanced solution going forward."

Tarte later sent out a joint statement with Republican Representative John R. Bradford, III.

"Charlotte and North Carolina have an opportunity. Our sources tell us there may be a very short window of time where we could still possibly keep the ACC Championships," the statement said. "It's time to put politics aside and unite. Everyone needs to come together for the sake of the Charlotte and North Carolina economy."

"No party is pure in this issue and we both need to walk the process back and start over. That said, we respectfully call on the Charlotte City Council to take a vote Monday night to repeal their ordinance," the statement continued. "If successful, we respectfully call on the Governor to immediately call a special session for Wednesday and call on our colleagues in both chambers to fully repeal HB2."

"There is an opportunity for both parties to repeal what they have done and show the world that we are ready to walk it back, save jobs, start the healing process, and work together to make NC the greatest state in the country," the statement ended.

In a statement released Tim Moore's office, the house speaker said there may be a discussion if the Charlotte City Council and Mayor Roberts repeal their ordinance.

""The legislature and governor did not create this controversy - the Mayor and City Council of Charlotte did. If the Charlotte City Council and Mayor fully and unconditionally repeal their ordinance then I believe we have something to discuss," Moore said in a statement. "As for the House of Representatives, any specifics to be done would be subject to discussions and a decision of the caucus. I applaud the Governor in his continued efforts to promote the economic growth of our state while ensuring basic privacy and safety protections of citizens in bathrooms, showers and changing facilities."

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