***UPDATE: The bill is heading to the governor’s desk after the House concurred in Senate amendments. Some lawmakers are still holding out hope for a deal via separate legislation but time is running out.
The Arkansas House has convened, and Rep. Bob Ballinger‘s so-called “religious conscience” bill is on the agenda. You can watch a live-stream here. There have been efforts today to develop a compromise via adding an amendment to state that the bill would not protect discrimination — but at this point, there is every indication that Ballinger plans to run the bill as is.
Rep. Warwick Sabin huddled with House Speaker Jeremy Gillam as the House was convening this afternoon. Sabin has reportedly been involved in the compromise negotiations. Perhaps they’re still trying.
I’ll update this post with a few liveblog notes if HB 1228 is run and debated.
LIVEBLOG (keep refreshing this post for updates):
Ha, Rep. Kim Hendren gives a long, passionate, breathless speech about how he wants to bring his legislative pork HOME. He argues that turf wars over bringing home the bacon are just as important a matter of fairness as HB 1228. Seriously, you want to get some passion out of these guys, the tough is the sweet spot. So that was fun. Rep. Lane Jean reminds members that if they don’t pass the GIF bill, they might have to work more, including into the weekend. And…the GIF bill passes unanimously.
HB 1228 is now up.
Rep. Camille Bennett moves that it be sent back to committee. She says that the Senate has “hijacked” Ballinger’s bill regarding the standards for enforcing the law’s so-called. “religious conscience” provisions.
Ballinger says that he’s not questioning Bennett’s integrity, but then questions her integrity. He says the Senate amendments are no biggie. He says that HB 1228 is similar to the federal RFRA law. “It mirrors the federal RFRA as closely today as the law allows to be effective,” he says. Ballinger says that the only reason to refer it back to committee is to kill the bill.
Rep. Clarke Tucker asks to send the bill back to committee in order to add an amendment prohibiting discrimination. Tucker says that it has created controversy because it “creates the perception that it affirmatively authorizes discrimination.” Tucker says he doesn’t think legislators are trying to discriminate but that the law could open the door to discrimination in effect.
Bennett says she doesn’t intend to kill the bill, she intends to improve it. Her motion fails. There will be a vote this afternoon.
The House is now concurring with Senate amendments.
Rep. Eddie Armstrong says that the effort to send the bill back to committee is not to kill the bill but based on a compromise effort to make improvements to avoid a catastrophe for economic development in the state. Armstrong says that lawmakers and officials from both parties have been trying unsuccessfully to work with Ballinger. “Our history will tells us when religion is used as a sword, it is often used against [minorities and the most vulnerable],” Armstrong says.
Rep. Nate Bell and Rep. Justin Harris both raise hissy-fit point of orders. Ballinger says he’s not a mean person. Armstrong raises a point of order. It’s like Great Britain up in here!
Sources tell me that adding anti-discrimination provisions is still possible — and that lawmakers are still working with the governor’s office on it — even though HB 1228 has now passed as is. The plan would be to implement the provisions via a separate bill.
All of the amendments were concurred with, which means it’s now heading to the governor’s desk. More updates soon in a separate post.