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Legal - Gov-Elect: North Carolina Will Repeal LGBT Law on Tuesday

(AP) North Carolina legislators will repeal the contentious HB2 law that limited protections for LGBT people and led to an economic backlash, the state's incoming governor said Monday.

Gov.-elect Roy Cooper made the announcement shortly after the Charlotte City Council voted to repeal its own local ordinance enacted in early 2016. It was that ordinance that Republicans blamed for the statewide law.

"Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore assured me that as a result of Charlotte's vote, a special session will be called for Tuesday to repeal HB 2 in full. I hope they will keep their word to me and with the help of Democrats in the legislature, HB2 will be repealed in full," the Democrat said in a statement.

The repeal would be a remarkable sign of cooperation for the incoming governor and the GOP-controlled legislature. Just last week, lawmakers called a special session and stripped Cooper of some of his authority when he takes office next month.

Spokesmen for Gov. Pat McCrory didn't immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment.

Media representatives for the state's Republican legislative leaders also didn't immediately respond.

The Charlotte council's move is contingent on North Carolina legislators fully repealing HB2 by Dec. 31.

HB2 requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding with the sex on their birth certificate in many public buildings. It also excludes sexual orientation and gender identity from statewide antidiscrimination protections.

McCrory and lawmakers have defended the bathroom provisions as providing privacy and safety by keeping men out of women's restrooms. Opponents of the law call it discriminatory.

Since HB2 passed in March, North Carolina has suffered a backlash that has included companies declining to expand in the state and cancellations of rock concerts. The NCAA and ACC have also moved college sports events out of the state.


Political - Trump Action on Health Care Could Cost Planned Parenthood

(AP) One of President-elect Donald Trump's first, and defining, acts next year could come on Republican legislation to cut off taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood.

Trump sent mixed signals during the campaign about the 100-year-old organization, which provides birth control, abortions and various women's health services. He said "millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood," but he also endorsed efforts to defund it.

Trump once described himself as "very pro-choice." Now he's in the anti-abortion camp.

Still, the Republican has been steadfast in calling for repeal of President Barack Obama's health care law, and the GOP-led Congress is eager to comply. One of the first pieces of legislation will be a repeal measure that's paired with cutting off money for Planned Parenthood. While the GOP may delay the impact of scuttling the law for almost four years, denying Planned Parenthood roughly $400 million in Medicaid funds would take effect immediately.

"We've already shown what we believe with respect to funding of Planned Parenthood," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters last month. "Our position has not changed."

Legislation to both repeal the law and cut Planned Parenthood funds for services to low-income women moved through Congress along party lines last year. Obama vetoed it; Trump's win removes any obstacle.

Cutting off Planned Parenthood from taxpayer money is a long-sought dream of social conservatives, but it's a loser in the minds of some GOP strategists. Planned Parenthood is loathed by anti-abortion activists who are the backbone of the GOP coalition. Polls, however, show that the group is favorably viewed by a sizable majority of Americans - 59 percent in a Gallup survey last year, including more than one-third of Republicans.

"Defunding Planned Parenthood as one of their first acts in the New Year would be devastating for millions of families and a huge mistake by Republicans," said incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.


Health - Health Contracts Approved with LGBT-Rights Language Stripped

(AP) A stalemate over contracts to provide health insurance next year for 10,000 state employees, retirees and family members ended Thursday when Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration removed LGBT-rights protections from the deals.

House lawmakers had stalled the contracts because they objected to including language from an executive order issued by the Democratic governor, saying Edwards had exceeded his authority. The order prohibited discrimination in government and state contracts based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

A judge declared the order unconstitutional Wednesday, so the Edwards administration stripped the LGBT-rights protection language from the contracts. The House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees then approved the reworked arrangements with insurance companies Vantage Health Plan and Peoples Health without objection Thursday.

Health plans in the Office of Group Benefits that cover thousands of people could have ended Jan. 1 without the contract approvals.

The LGBT-rights order, issued by Edwards in April, has caused consternation with some Republican lawmakers who accused the governor of executive overreach. They noted that the Legislature has refused to enact such protections in law.

Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry filed a lawsuit challenging Edwards' order as an unconstitutional breach of separation of powers. A state district judge in Baton Rouge agreed.

Edwards said he intends to appeal the decision. But the governor's lawyer Matthew Block assured the Appropriations Committee that the administration won't try to add the anti-discrimination clause back to the insurance contracts if the appeal is successful.

"We do not intend to come back and say we're going to amend every existing contract to require that language to be included," Block said. "We have other stuff to do."

Other legal services contracts for state agencies and boards had been stalled by Landry's office because they contained the anti-discrimination language. The Edwards administration has indicated it will resubmit contracts without the LGBT-rights protections to comply with the judge's order while its appeal is pending.