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N.C. Governor-Elect Roy Cooper Outlines Plan To Repeal Bathroom Law

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Politics in North Carolina just took the latest unexpected turn. The Republican-controlled legislature failed to repeal House Bill 2 which limits civil rights protections for LGBT people. The special session ended in chaos, and the outgoing Republican governor will not be able to sign a repeal as intended.

That leaves the issue in the hands of Governor-elect Roy Cooper, a Democrat who joins us now. Welcome to the program.

ROY COOPER: Thank you, Ari. Glad to be with you.

SHAPIRO: Now, the deal was that the city of Charlotte would repeal its gay rights protection measure, and then the state would repeal HB2, the so-called bathroom bill. Charlotte says it upheld its end of the bargain passing a repeal and then another. Why do you think the legislature failed to keep its part of the deal?

COOPER: What happened is that the Republican caucuses buckled on the Republican leaders. And the frustrating thing is that if they had simply put the legislation out on the floor for a vote, it would have passed with the requisite Democrats and Republicans who were for this voting together. But we know that this is costing us, and we've got to fix it.

SHAPIRO: As you mentioned, there's real economic harm from this bill. There have been boycotts. Big companies have decided not to expand in North Carolina. As long as this law is in place, how do you plan to address the ongoing economic harm that it's doing to the state's economy?

COOPER: First, I'm telling businesses that this governor's election was the first step. So...

SHAPIRO: But they weren't boycotting the governor. They were boycotting the state because of House Bill 2, which is still in effect.

COOPER: The governor was the start of House bill 2. I'm going to argue to businesses and others that you still need to come to North Carolina. You need to expand. You need to bring your sporting events and entertainment events here. But when you come, help me repeal House Bill 2. Help me make sure that our laws reflect North Carolinians and who we really are.

SHAPIRO: I want to ask more broadly about your ability to work with the legislature. Last week of course Republicans passed this sweeping measure to curb your power. It made your cabinet subject to legislative approval. It cut your political appointees from the 1,500 that your predecessor had down to 425 people, lots of other changes that advantage Republicans.

You've said that you'll challenge this in court, but how are you going to govern with a legislature that is so determined to put up roadblocks in your way?

COOPER: First, I'm going to make sure that I continue to work with them in areas where we can work together. For example, as we were fighting about these issues, at the same time, we were negotiating on House Bill 2. I think...

SHAPIRO: I'm sorry, but if House Bill 2 is your example of where you can work together, last night seems to indicate...

COOPER: Well...

SHAPIRO: ...The contrary.

COOPER: But, Ari, they agreed with me. They ended up having a revolt in their caucus. But the point of the matter is - is that we were talking about this, and we were working on an agreement even with the storm of the other issues. I believe that there are Republicans in the legislature who do want to raise our teacher pay to at least the national average. They want to work with me on bringing good jobs to North Carolina. I'm going to be...

SHAPIRO: I don't want to sound rude, but isn't that a little naive in light of what the legislature...

COOPER: No.

SHAPIRO: ...Has been doing for the last two weeks?

COOPER: No, look; I'm going to fight them toe-to-toe on issues we disagree with, that if there are areas where we can work together and we can find agreement, I will. And I think that's the kind of leadership that people want our elected officials to show.

SHAPIRO: Over the last year, North Carolina has gained a national reputation as a place of political mud wrestling and chaos. Is that a reputation that you think you can turn around?

COOPER: Sure we can. We have an incredible foundation. We have some of the best universities in the country. We have incredible tourism.

SHAPIRO: Sounds like you're saying just ignore the politics.

COOPER: Yeah, you have to because we're a great state. There are good things going on. When people move here, they don't want to leave. What we have to do is fix the politics. And I'm ready to do that.

SHAPIRO: Roy Cooper, governor-elect of North Carolina, thank you for joining us.

COOPER: Thank you, Ari. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.