The latest attempt among North Carolina lawmakers to repeal the state's "bathroom bill" fizzled out Tuesday, prompting a fresh round of finger-pointing between Republican lawmakers and the Democratic governor.
The fallout continues over HB2, which limits LGBT protections and prevents transgender people from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
The NCAA relocated several college athletic championship events for the 2016-17 season over the bill and the association has implied four more years of tournaments are at stake if the law stands.
Republican leaders Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore called a news conference Tuesday to announce that a majority of Republican legislators had "agreed in principle" to a proposal from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to replace HB2.
Then, minutes before the news conference, the governor pulled out of the proposal, the Republican leaders told a packed room of reporters.
"The governor made a proposal late last week that we are prepared to agree to in principle," Berger said. "We called the governor on the way down here to let him know we agreed, but he now denies that he ever made the proposal, and so we've got to figure out exactly where we are.
"I was taken aback that the governor disavowed ever having made the proposal," Berger added. "We're not sure exactly where we are right now, quite frankly."
Here's what the governor's proposal included, according to GOP lawmakers:
• A repeal of HB2
• Regulation of multi-occupancy facilities falls under state's control
• Local governments can pass employment and accommodation non-discrimination ordinances as long "they are consistent with federal employment and accommodation non-discrimination law"... except for bathroom regulations
• Lets citizens collect court costs and attorney fees if they successfully sue alleging a violation of their constitutional rights, similar to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Different version of events
A spokesman for Cooper, who has called for a full repeal, disputed the Republican leaders' version of events.
"It's frustrating that Republican leaders are more interested in political stunts than negotiating a compromise to repeal HB2. While Governor Cooper continues to work for a compromise, there are still issues to be worked out, and Republican leaders' insistence on including an Indiana-style RFRA provision remains a deal-breaker," spokesman Ford Porter said.
"Any compromise must work to end discrimination, repair our reputation, and bring back jobs and sports, and a RFRA is proven to do just the opposite."
The proposal is the latest failed attempt to take HB2 off the books.
North Carolina House Minority leader Darren Jackson accused GOP lawmakers of failing to compromise, citing Tuesday's flap and the death of a previous proposal, HB 186.
The proposed measure would have repealed HB2 while limiting the ability of local governments to pass non-discrimination ordinances without preventing them outright.
"House Bill 186, with the compromise written last week, had the sign off of everyone we needed to solve our problems in North Carolina," Jackson said.
Jackson said the news conference preempted a scheduled meeting at the Governor's mansion. He claimed to have never seen the four-point proposal.
"This was all about laying the blame and not fixing the problem. The rug was pulled out from under us again.
Tuesday's back and forth came as a deadline approaches with implications for the state's economy.
On March 23, one year after the bill was signed into law, the NCAA issued a statement that makes clear it will stand its ground as long as HB2 exists.
"Last year, the NCAA Board of Governors relocated NCAA championships scheduled in North Carolina because of the cumulative impact HB2 had on local communities' ability to assure a safe, healthy, discrimination free atmosphere for all those watching and participating in our events. Absent any change in the law, our position remains the same regarding hosting current or future events in the state," the statement said