Religious freedom legislation appears dead for this session of the Georgia Legislature, the proposal’s author told InsiderAdvantage Georgia Wednesday afternoon.
“I do not expect further developments,” Sen. Joshua McKoon, R-Columbus, said in an email about his Senate Bill 129. McKoon says the legislation would prevent government from intruding into religious practice, while opponents claim it would cause discrimination against gays.
The bill, approved by the Senate, has been tabled in the House Judiciary Committee since last week. Committee Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, and Senate President Pro Tem David Shaffer, R-Duluth, were negotiating over a compromise anti-discrimination amendment to allow the bill to reach the House floor before the session ends Thursday night, but a deal has not been reached, McKoon said. He’s vowed to try again next year.
Willard did not return a call from InsiderAdvantage Georgia. Nor did Rep. Sam Teasley, R-Marietta, who offered a similar House bill earlier in the session. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who’s expressed skepticism about the religious freedom bill, blocked Teasley’s bill from coming to a vote. Teasley, who did not return a call from InsiderAdvantage Georgia, could possibly try to attach his bill to another piece of legislation Thursday.
McKoon said he thinks his bill became entangled in the passage of the transportation spending bill Tuesday. “I believe Democrats received assurances that if they supported HB 170 that RFRA would be tabled for the year.”
But Democrats dispute that the two bills were linked. Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna, a House Judiciary Committee member, said in an email to InsiderAdvantage Georgia, “I have not heard that such a deal was made. Sounds like pure speculation.”
Similar bills recently passed in Indiana and Arkansas, resulting in business threats of boycotts.