Main | Wednesday, April 01, 2015

ARKANSAS: Senate Approves Amended RFRA "Nearly Identical" To Fed Version

Via Arkansas Online:
The Arkansas Senate on Wednesday night approved transmitting two amended existing bills to the House that add language that mirrors the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Senate Bills 229 and 975 as amended serve as potential compromises to House Bill 1228, a bill opponents say could allow for discrimination against gay people while the bill's main sponsor has said it strengthens religious freedom protections. SB 229 passed with 26 voting for and six voting against, and SB975 passed with 25 voting for and no one voting against. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday morning that he had asked legislators to amend HB1228 or present a new bill with language more closely matching the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Several senators said they were upset of the "hostile" takeover of SB975, originally sponsored by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch to amend state law concerning government entities regulating free exercise of religion.
More from the Arkansas Times:
For those of you who may be wondering the significance of SB 229 and 975: There is none. They were bills that had failed previously in the session and therefore simply acted as empty vessels to be filled with new substance via an amendment. We've long since passed the filing deadline of the legislative session, which is the date after which no new bills can be filed. However, new amendments can be filed up until the end of the session, and an amendment can make any change to a bill that's already been filed previously. An amendment can, in fact, remove every bit of language from the original bill and rewrite it into something entirely different — which is what happened in this case. Whatever those bills contained beforehand is immaterial. However, it's still fun to mention that SB 229 was intended to protect Arkansas citizens from Sharia Law, sponsored by Sen. John Cooper (R-Jonesboro). That represents some deep level of irony that we can't quite grasp in our current fatigued state.
The AP recaps: "Unlike the version on Hutchinson's desk, the new proposal only addresses action by government, not individuals or businesses."

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