Gov. Asa Hutchinson would sign Ballinger's "conscience" bill in current form, says he did not pressure Burnett | Arkansas Blog

Gov. Asa Hutchinson would sign Ballinger's "conscience" bill in current form, says he did not pressure Burnett

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HUTCHINSON: " Similar statutes around the country have been held constitutional."
  • HUTCHINSON: " Similar statutes around the country have been held constitutional."
Rep. Bill Ballinger's bill (HB 1228) to allow legal discrimination against gay people under a so-called "conscience protection" will likely be taken up by the Senate tomorrow after passing out of committee yesterday. The Senate is expected to pass the bill and send it to the governor's desk. 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson's spokesperson J.R. Davis told the Times that Hutchinson would sign the bill in its current form. "With the changes that were made in the committee with the amendments that were suggested, and if it remains in that form during the legislative process, Gov. Hutchinson would sign the bill," Davis said. 

Asked about a potential legal challenge to the constitutionality of the bill, Davis said: "The governor has reviewed several cases in reference to HB 1228 and they remain consistent over the last decade. Similar statutes around the country have been held constitutional. It can always be impacted by new Supreme Court cases that address these issues, but that’s unknown at this time."

We asked Davis whether, as sources have told the Times, the governor's office put pressure on Sen. David Burnett, the Democrat who flipped and helped pass HB1228 out of committee. Davis said no pressure was put on Burnett but that the governor had met with him earlier to encourage him to pass it out of committee.  

"The governor met with Sen. Burnett two weeks ago and discussed House Bill 1228," Davis said. "Gov. Hutchinson expressed to him that he thought the bill should have a vote on the floor but specified that he did want some amendments added. Subsequently, after that meeting, those amendments were made, and Gov. Hutchinson has not spoken with Sen. Burnett since."

KARK reporter Drew Petrimoulx, meanwhile, reports that Burnett said that Hutchinson asked him to support the bill. 

Burnett also flipped on SB 939, Sen. Jason Rapert's bill mandating a monument to the Ten Commandments. SB 939 passed the Senate today and will head to the House.  

Davis said that the governor has not yet had a chance to review the language of SB 939, but will continue to monitor it as it moves through the legislative process. 

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