Arkansas Governor Asks Lawmakers For Changes To 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Updated at 11:59 a.m. ETArkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he has asked the state's lawmakers for changes to the "religious freedom" bill passed Tuesday.Critics of the measure say it allows businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians. Supporters say it advances religious freedom."I've asked them to recall it and change the language," Hutchinson said at a news conference Wednesday, a day after Arkansas legislators approved the measure. Attempts during the legislative process to bar...
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10 commandments
Wikipedia

Arkansas House members have advanced to Gov. Asa Hutchinson a bill to allow a Ten Commandments monument to be built at the state Capitol.

Lawmakers voted 72-7 Wednesday to allow the erection of a privately funded display. The secretary of state would be charged with approving the display.

Republican Rep. Kim Hammer of Benton says the bill will honor the role the commandments played in the nation's legal system.

Opponents say the display is unconstitutional and could amount to a state endorsement of religion.

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John Paul Hammerschmidt, the longtime Arkansas congressman who defeated Bill Clinton in the former president's first race for political office, has died. He was 92.

Hammerschmidt spent two decades in Congress before retiring in 1993.The Roller-Christeson Funeral Home in Harrison confirms that he died early Wednesday. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Arkansas lawmakers have given initial approval to legislation outlining the state's nearly $5.2 billion budget for the coming year and a plan to tap $40 million from the state surplus for various one-time needs.

The House on Tuesday approved by a 92-0 vote the proposed Revenue Stabilization Act, which sets spending priorities based on expected revenue. An identical version of the measure cleared the Senate on a 27-6 vote.

The proposal boosts funding for public schools, prisons and Medicaid, with a 1 percent cut to most other agencies.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

The Arkansas Legislature approved a bill Tuesday that would heighten judicial scrutiny in cases involving sincerely held religious beliefs. Opponents of HB1228 say it legalizes discrimination and will be used particularly against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.

Following the passage of a religious freedom law in Indiana last week, business leaders with interests in that state and in Arkansas have spoken out against the laws, which extend strict scrutiny standards to religious beliefs in cases involving private companies.

The Arkansas Senate has endorsed a proposal to restore a capital gains tax break to a level approved in 2013.

Senators voted 24-9 Tuesday to send the bill to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

A Hutchinson spokesman didn't immediately say whether the bill would be signed into law, but the governor previously reworked his $5.2 billion budget to accommodate the tax break.

HB 1228 religious freedom gay rights
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

On a day when renewed opposition from the state’s business community implored Gov. Asa Hutchinson to stop HB 1228, a bill dubbed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the Arkansas House passed three amendments to the measure that sealed the bill’s fate for the governor’s desk.

HB 1228 bill sponsor, Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) after the committee vote.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The Arkansas House is poised Tuesday afternoon to vote on a nationally watched bill that proponents say advances "religious freedom" and opponents deride as sanctioning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. 

The decision on the House floor comes in the wake of Indiana enacting a similar law. In Arkansas, as in Indiana, a number of the world's largest corporations have or are threatening to boycott the states. 

Several more announcements were made Tuesday from industry leaders.

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson has vetoed a publicity rights bill backed by the family of Arkansas football legend Frank Broyles. Spokesman J.R. Davis said it was his first veto of the session.

The bill sailed through both chambers earlier this month with only six representatives and three senators voting against it. Proponents, such as the National Football League Players Association, say it will prevent businesses from using a person's name or likeness to sell goods.

Broyles' family has said they want to protect his rights after his death.

A bill designed to restart executions in the Arkansas by allowing an alternative lethal injection procedure and hiding the source of the drugs was endorsed by a Senate panel.

The Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs advanced the bill to the full Senate in a voice vote Tuesday. It would allow the Department of Correction to use a combination of three drugs or a barbiturate for executions. The agency would also be barred from releasing who makes or supplies the drugs.

Former site of the Little Rock Veterans Home
Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs

Every veteran nationwide would be eligible for in-state tuition to attend Arkansas’s higher education institutions under a bill passed by the House Education Committee Tuesday. Randy Massanelli, the top lobbyist for the University of Arkansas, spoke in favor.

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