BRADENTON, Fla. - North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper began his first State of the State address by urging lawmakers to fully repeal House Bill 2, a state law seen as discriminatory toward gay and transgender people.
Cooper, a Democrat who took office Jan 1, told a joint session of the GOP-led General Assembly Monday night that HB 2 "is the dark cloud hanging over our state of promise." He called for its full repeal.
"The law has damaged our state," he said. "Pass a compromise repeal that works to eliminate discrimination and brings back jobs, sports and entertainment and I will sign it – as long as it truly gets the job done."
Since HB 2's passage in early 2016, businesses have pulled new projects out of North Carolina in protest, concerts were cancelled, and major sports events moved from the state. The state has been sued, and some government employees from other states have been banned from traveling to North Carolina.
Cooper also said his priorities include implementing measures that benefit people who feel "left behind by a system that isn't listening to them and an economy that isn't rewarding them for their hard work."
"I bring their concerns to you today, boiled down this way," he told lawmakers. "I want North Carolinians to be better educated, healthier and have more money in their pockets."
Lawmakers can find common ground with the governor on education, health care, fighting the state's opioid crisis and boosting the state's investment infrastructure, Cooper said.
Sen. President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, responded to the governor's speech touting successes that Republicans have made since taking control of the legislature.
Berger also called Cooper's spending priorities "a retreat to our troubled past," and contended that Cooper undermined attempts earlier this year to repeal HB 2.
The General Assembly is in session through mid-July.