The immediate aftermath of the General Assembly’s failure to repeal House Bill 2 in special session Wednesday was predictable. Democrats blamed Republicans. Republicans blamed Democrats. Opposing activist groups went on the attack. In short, the political spin cycle was on high.
We talked to two lawmakers from Mecklenburg County for their thoughts on what happened at the statehouse and where we go from here. In this interview with Democratic state senator Jeff Jackson, he said Republicans broke the deal.
He said when he arrived at the legislature Wednesday, he thought there was a 50-50 chance that HB 2 could be repealed. Then he realized Republicans weren't going to follow through.
"The fact is they broke the deal," Jackson said. "They said they'd keep their word and they didn't. On an issue like HB2, for them to expect us to roll over after they break their deal is unrealistic."
The deal included a pledge by the Charlotte City Council to repeal its non-discrimination ordinance. The council did so on Monday, and then voted a second time Wednesday after legislative Republicans accused them of not going far enough.
"After a few hours of sitting around, it became clear they might go back on that," Jackson said. That included adding a clause "at the 11th hour" that put a six-month moratorium on cities and towns enacting new nondiscrimination ordinances.
Jackson said Charlotte's leaders kept up their end of the bargain. He put in his own bill that would've simply repealed HB 2, with no strings attached. That went nowhere.
The new deal - with the moratorium - lost the support of Democrats, who felt the deal was broken. And while it was supposed to appease pro-HB2 Republicans, it didn't.
What killed the deal wasn't Democrats, Jackson said, but a lack of support among Republicans.
"I think that (the moratorium) was an out for them, because a lot of their members are simply uncomfortable with repealing HB 2," Jackson said.
The bill has become a symbol for Republicans of resistance to Charlotte and progressives, Jackson said.
"If no Democrats had showed up yesterday, this thing would've gone the same way because they don't have the votes in their caucus," he said. That's the Senate, and Jackson said repealing HB 2 likely would've faced even stronger opposition in the House.
"They are so deeply invested in this narrative of Charlotte is the bad guy, that even saying something nice about Charlotte into a microphone on the Senate floor brings heckles," he said.
So where do we go from here?
Jackson said there's nothing more Charlotte can do. They did everything asked, he said.
The issue could come up again in the long session of the General Assembly, which begins next month. He still thinks there's a chance of passage.
"The good news here is there actually are the votes to repeal HB 2. You've got enough moderate Republicans and enough Democrats to repeal HB 2 if you can get a clean repeal on the floor," he said.
The question, he said, is whether Republican leaders will allow such a bill to come up for a vote.
Dec. 22, 2015, WFAE.org, "GOP Sen. Tarte: Durham Rumors Spurred Moratorium Idea"