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Lawmakers, Cooper reach agreement to repeal HB2; votes set for today

March 30, 2017 GMT

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore held a 10:30 p.m. press conference Wednesday to announce that an agreement to repeal House Bill 2 has been reached with Gov. Roy Cooper.

House Bill 142, which initially dealt with occupational licensing boards, will be gutted, and the new language inserted before the bill is heard Thursday morning in the Senate Rules Committee.

The bill states that “state agencies, boards, offices, departments, branches of government ... and political subdivisions of the state, including local boards of education are preempted from regulation of access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities, except in accordance with an act of the General Assembly.”

The proposal also prohibits local governments from enacting or amending ordinances regulating private employment practices or public accommodations until Dec. 1, 2020, which Berger and Moore said would give time for federal lawsuits over transgender rights to be resolved.

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After the bill passes Senate Rules, it must pass two votes on the Senate floor during a session scheduled for 11 a.m. and then return to the House for a final vote before being sent to Cooper.

“I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow. It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation,” Cooper said in a statement.

“Compromise requires give and take from all sides, and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy,” Berger and Moore said in a joint statement.

The announcement comes as an NCAA deadline looms.

The NCAA was making decisions on 2018-2022 tournament sites this week and said no events would be held in North Carolina as long as House Bill 2 remains on the books.

The NCAA gave North Carolina one last warning Thursday about the need for the state to repeal the law that limits LGBT rights.

The law, which was passed just over a year ago, requires transgender people to use public bathrooms in schools and other government buildings that match their birth gender and excludes gay and transgender people from discrimination protections. It has come under fire by corporations, celebrities and North Carolina cities.

LGBT advocates expressed disappointment in the repeal compromise.

“This evening, we hear that a bathroom deal is being struck. The proposal would continue to discriminate against the transgender community,” said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina. “LGBT North Carolinians are being kept in the dust. A majority of people want a full repeal.”

“What transgender, LGBT person is at the table? There is no deal without us at the table,” said Chad Griffin, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign. “Any lawmaker who supports this proposal cannot call themselves an ally of the LGBT community.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina released a statement Thursday morning criticizing the compromise, saying it “uses the rights of LGBT people as a bargaining chip.”

“One year after HB2 was introduced and signed into law in just 12 hours, it is shameful that legislative leaders and North Carolina’s governor are once again rushing through a discriminatory anti-LGBT measure without proper vetting or an opportunity for public input,” ACLU of North Carolina policy director Sarah Gillooly said in a statement. “The way to undo HB2’s profound damage to North Carolina and its people has always been a full, clean repeal, but this proposal would keep anti-LGBT provisions of the law in place and continue to single out and target transgender people.”

The North Carolina Democratic Party said Thursday morning that the legislation, while not “perfect,” will give North Carolina “an opportunity to finally rebuild.”

“After more than a year of damage by House Bill 2 to our state’s citizens, economy and reputation, this dark chapter in North Carolina’s history appears to be finally coming to a close,” party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in a statement. “While this is not a perfect deal, it will remove discriminatory legislation from the books and will give our state an opportunity to finally rebuild.”

Former Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed House Bill 2 into law and remained a staunch defender of it even as Cooper rode calls to repeal it to election as governor in November, said via Twitter late Tuesday that he hopes the deal succeeds.

“I urge #NCGA & @NC_Governor to finally stick with this deal that still respects privacy and let Supreme Court resolve issue for our nation,” McCrory tweeted.

This is the latest in a string of repeal deals to pop up in the General Assembly since December, but none has gone anywhere.

On Tuesday, Berger and Moore announced that they had agreed to a proposal Cooper made last week, only to say that Cooper flatly denied making any proposal.

But the two sides continued to negotiate through the night and into Wednesday.

There was a lot of hurried movement at the General Assembly Wednesday afternoon as Republicans and Democrats caucused behind closed doors and legislative leaders darted between one another’s offices.

The House repeatedly delayed session until Moore adjourned for the night at about 7 p.m.

Cooper also reportedly cleared his schedule Wednesday afternoon to focus on repeal negotiations.