RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The General Assembly returned to session Tuesday, with many Democrats pushing for the repeal of House Bill 2 but the Senate leader defending the measure.
“Some of the attention is not necessarily warranted,” said Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger. “I think much of it is generated by a false narrative by reference to what House Bill 2 was intending to do and what it actually does.
“So we’re going to continue to move forward here in North Carolina on those things we’ve been working on for the past five years.”
Berger said the city of Charlotte “overreached substantially” and the General Assembly had to act. Gov. Pat McCrory has spoken in favor of House Bill 2 overall but said he wants to see the right to sue for discrimination in civil courts restored.
Berger said, “The governor made mention that he sought some possible changes. When I see what they are, we’ll see what we’re doing to do with them.”
But the bill continued to draw criticism from Democrats. Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Democrat from Durham, said the bill “will continue to have a devastating economic impact. Our brand, our image has been significantly tarnished.
“We’ve already lost a half billion dollars coming into our economy. I think it would be a tragic mistake.”
A bill to repeal House Bill 2 – called House Bill 946 – was introduced Monday by a group of Democrats led by Rep. Darren Jackson. On Tuesday, House Bill 946 was referred to the Judiciary IV committee, where supporters were confident it would be debated.
“I’m not trying to make a political statement,” said Jackson. “I think that repealing House Bill 2 is the only way for our state to move forward.”
House Bill 2 was the subject of intense lobbying on Monday with groups in favor of it and those opposed to it appearing at the Legislative Building.
Berger, who as Senate leader has immense power of the session, said a key part of the session will be looking at tax reform and the budget. Gov. Pat McCrory on Friday introduced a $22.3 billion budget, a 2.8 percent increase.
As for the House bill seeking repeal of House Bill 2, Berger said, “I don’t see a need for us to move forward with the repeal bill. That’s a House bill. We’ll see what happens, whether it makes any progress over there.”
On Monday evening — starting around 7 p.m. — protests against House Bill 2 started ending in arrests. By the time the evening was over, there were 54 total arrests. Twenty-nine of those arrests were people from the Triangle and 17 were from outside of the Triangle, but still from North Carolina. Five were from out of state.
All 54 of those arrested were charged with second-degree trespass. In addition, 35 of the 54 were charged with violating legislative rules.