It didn’t take long for the Republican-led General Assembly to have an impact on the incoming administration of Gov.-elect Roy Cooper in a way that ill-serves North Carolina.
The next governor’s aides report some people under consideration for positions in Cooper’s Cabinet have decided against offering their skills and experience to the state. The reason? They don’t want to submit to a confirmation process newly imposed by the legislature.
Torpedoing Cooper’s Cabinet was part of partisan warfare that seems to have ended chances for a productive relationship between Cooper and legislative leadership before the new governor has even taken office. After imposing the confirmation requirement, Republican lawmakers balked at a deal to repeal HB2, the divisive and destructive “bathroom bill.” GOP leaders agreed to repeal the law only if the repeal came with a six-month moratorium on local governments passing anti-discrimination ordinances, such as the Charlotte ordinance that triggered passage of HB2.
Cooper urged Democrats to vote against repeal after GOP leaders added the moratorium provision to appease lawmakers who favor keeping HB2. That provision would have essentially left in place the prohibition imposed by HB2 with the possibility that it could be extended indefinitely.
Everyone knows how the state has been hurt by reaction to HB2. Shows have been canceled, athletic events have moved and businesses have called off plans for expansion in or relocation to North Carolina. Republican leaders didn’t seem to care — those were losses to cities, after all, and the party’s leaders are from rural areas. But when Cooper brokered a deal with the Charlotte council to rescind its ordinance (which was effectively killed by HB2 anyway), Republican leaders welcomed the chance to end the HB2 controversy.
The deal broke down when the Republican leaders were unable to keep their members on track, but both sides must continue to try to remove the stain of HB2 from North Carolina. As Cooper said of the failed deal, “This was our best chance. This cannot be our last chance.”
A continuing partisan divide on HB2 and other issues will be destructive for a state that needs to focus on investment in public education, transportation and health care.
Republicans have the power of veto-proof majorities in both houses. Cooper has the power of the bully pulpit. Both sides can use their powers to deepen the partisan divide or to bridge it. Their partisan differences are clear, but both sides nonetheless need to find common ground on issues of common concern. A continuing stalemate will be a defeat for the state caught in the middle