Under the Dome: First day of the legislative session
Senate and House Democrats outlined their agenda for the session on Wednesday, expressing optimism that they can find sufficient bipartisan agreement on their goals, even though they are the minority party.
Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue of Raleigh and House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson of Knightdale called the news conference in the Legislative Building, which was attended by most of the party’s members in both chambers.
The goals align with Gov. Roy Cooper’s positions on repealing HB2, expanding Medicaid coverage, shifting tax breaks to the middle class and small businesses, raising educators’ pay and funding storm recovery. Many of those goals are Republican goals, also, except for HB2 and Medicaid.
Blue and Jackson insisted there are enough votes among Republicans to repeal HB2, which rolled back anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community and allowed people to use the public restroom of their gender identity not their birth gender. The financial and public relations fallout from the bill have been substantial, and efforts to repeal it in a special session last month failed.
Cooper and General Assembly Democratic leaders say the repeal would pass if GOP leaders allowed it to come to the floor for a vote without strings attached. That would require 11 Senate Republicans and about 15 House Republicans joining Democrats, Blue and Jackson said.
Earlier Wednesday, Senate Leader Phil Berger told reporters that an HB2 repeal is a possibility so long as supporters and opponents are willing to make compromises.
Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League, on Wednesday emailed a video calling on legislators to stand firm and not repeal HB2. The seven-minute video concluded with a call for financial contributions to fight against repeal.
“The whole nation is watching North Carolina on this issue,” Creech said. “In fact, the world is watching.”
Blue said education was the top priority, which includes spending more on teacher and administrators’ pay, textbooks and other needs.
“If we value our people, then we need to invest in their success,” Blue said.
On another matter, Blue said he thinks he will see the framework for a series of confirmation hearings on Cooper’s Cabinet appointments by the end of the day Thursday. Senate Republicans are drafting that plan now, he said.
Senate confirmation of the governor’s Cabinet was required in a bill lawmakers passed in December. Cooper has challenged it in court, and resolution of that dispute is still pending.