HB2 is gone, but some controversial parts of it still live on
Last year, the North Carolina General Assembly hastily passed HB2, one of the few laws famous enough that it gets mentioned on bumper stickers and protest signs.
The law regulated bathroom access, and it also banned local governments from protecting LGBT people from discrimination within their boundaries, and prevented governments from making local rules raising the minimum wage, requiring paid leave policies and more.
Controversy over the law quickly came to define the 2016 race for governor. Democrat Roy Cooper promised – often, and forcefully – to repeal the law. He won a narrow victory over the Republican incumbent, Pat McCrory.
And after some false starts, the legislature did replace HB2 with a new set of rules on March 30 – signed into law by Cooper that same day.
However, the changes fell short of everything he promised, which was: "to repeal HB2 and restore the worker protections that were taken away by Governor McCrory."
Some of Cooper's supporters were less than pleased.
"Lawmakers and Governor Cooper have failed to resolve the problems with HB2 by doubling down on discrimination," said Chris Sgro, a former Democratic legislator who's the executive director of Equality NC.
Working with Cooper to draft the bill, the Republican-led legislature did technically repeal HB2 – most notably the part of the law that restricted who can use which bathrooms.
But the new law didn't stop there.
It added back HB2's bans on local "worker protections" and other local ordinances, but gave them a convenient expiration date: Dec. 1, 2020, after the next gubernatorial election.
The bill passed with bipartisan support, and also bipartisan opposition. Cooper said he went along with the continued ban on local ordinances because it was the only way that he could get enough Republicans on board to pass the other changes.
"In a perfect world, with a good General Assembly, we would have repealed House Bill 2 fully today and added full statewide protections for LGBT North Carolinians," he said at a news conference. "Unfortunately our supermajority Republican legislature will not pass these protections. But this is an important goal that I will keep fighting for."
But in the meantime, cities and counties remain banned from creating local discrimination protections and from passing rules raising the minimum wage or mandating stricter policies about hours, leave, benefits and other employment issues.
So it's clear that Cooper got some – but not all – of what he promised on HB2. We rate this promise a Compromise. If something changes, we'll update our rating.
The News & Observer, March 30, 2017, "NC's HB2 compromise called 'fake repeal,' angers liberals and conservatives alike"
The News & Observer, March 30, 2017, "HB2 off the books as Gov. Roy Cooper signs compromise into law"
Cooper announces his own proposed legislation to repeal HB2
One of the biggest issues in Gov. Roy Cooper's successful campaign last fall against then-Gov. Pat McCrory was Cooper's promise to work on a repeal of House Bill 2.
The governor can't overturn state law on his own, but Cooper was adamant that if elected, he would focus intently on repealing the controversial law – which deals with everything from employment discrimination against LGBT people to minimum wage laws and bathroom access.
"I will work to repeal HB2 and restore the worker protections that were taken away by Governor McCrory," Cooper promised on his campaign website – in addition to similar comments in numerous interviews, debates and TV ads.
The issue received added attention recently when the NCAA said that unless North Carolina repealed HB2 by the end of February, it would lose out on the chance to host postseason college sports games all the way through 2022. That would likely mean tens of millions of dollars in losses for the state's tourism industry – not to mention being a symbolic blow to a state that has long hosted such events and prides itself on its strong college athletics programs, especially basketball.
Democrats in the legislature filed three separate bills proposing various ways to go about repealing HB2. Then Cooper himself entered the mix on Feb. 14, proposing a fourth strategy for repealing the law.
Cooper was flanked at his press conference by the two most powerful Democrats in the General Assembly – Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue and House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson. Jackson later filed a bill containing what Cooper had proposed.
It includes a repeal of HB2, stronger penalties for certain crimes committed in bathrooms, and a minimum 30-day public input period for any city that is thinking of creating any local nondiscrimination ordinance, for LGBT people or any other group.
It remains to be seen, however, if Cooper's idea (or any of the other repeal bills) will earn enough legislative support to pass. Republican leaders in both the House and Senate have been skeptical of each proposal.
But given all the action surrounding a potential HB2 repeal, including from Cooper himself, we rate this promise as In The Works.
The News & Observer, Feb. 14, 2017, "Democrats have proposed four HB2 repeal bills – here's how they differ"
The News & Observer, Feb. 14, 2017, video, "Cooper offers compromise HB2 repeal proposal"
The News & Observer, Feb. 6, 2017, "HB2 could soon cost NC six years of NCAA championship events, sports group says"
Roy Cooper campaign website
House Bill 107, filed by Rep. Darren Jackson, NCGA session 2017, "Common Sense Compromise to Repeal HB 2"