RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A bill that Republican negotiators expanded very late in this year's General Assembly session to enforce a ban on several types of local government ordinances got derailed Tuesday after complaints from advocacy groups and fellow GOP legislators.
The measure initially dealt with licensing counselors and middle-school sex education. But it came out of a final House-Senate negotiating session late Monday night with provisions that could have voided many city- or county-approved rules placing specific requirements on businesses on employee pay, housing and landlord-tenant relationships.
The House debated the final agreement on the floor, but members from both parties were unhappy with how the restrictions were added in private by the negotiating committee, when neither the House nor Senate version of the measure contained such language.
A majority in the House sent the proposed compromise bill to the chamber's Rules Committee, which failed to return it to the floor for a vote. By late Tuesday night, committee chairman Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said the measure was dead for this year's session, which was expected to close early Wednesday.
If there are not the "votes to get it out of the Rules Committee, there's not enough to pass it on the floor," Lewis said. The bill hadn't been heard on the Senate floor.
Earlier Tuesday, Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, who helped negotiate the final bill, told colleagues the measure would have reinforced a state constitutional provision against local acts affecting trade and labor.
"This doesn't represent a change in law," said Rep. Dan Bishop, R-Mecklenburg, another negotiator, adding that "novel ideas are bubbling up from municipalities" that are making it hard for business to operate. "That's a fundamental threat to the economy of North Carolina."
Municipal or civil rights advocacy groups opposed to the compromise said it would eliminate or prevent ordinances requiring higher minimum wages than the state allows, minimum housing standards and even some gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender protections.
LGBT nondiscrimination policies have been approved in 10 cities or counties, including Charlotte, Raleigh and Asheville, according to the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"Once again, this General Assembly is taking on local governments for making strides to improve the lives of North Carolinians," Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, said in a statement. The GOP-led legislature has picked fights with city and county governments in recent years, while also reworking county commission and city council district boundaries without the local government's requests.
Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, a frequent critic of parliamentary procedure, said the local government legislation should have been considered as a separate bill and gone through the conventional committee process.
"I really think this is a dangerous situation," Blust said.
The measure also would have broadened the scope of materials that middle-school teachers can use to instruct about sex education.