Action on ‘Religious liberty’ bill unlikely until final days of session

Anyone expecting — or hoping or dreading — quick action on a ‘religious liberty’ bill in a House committee will have to wait a while.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, said his panel has much work to do before getting around to Senate Bill 129, which was tabled in his committee late in the 2015 legislative session. Supporters of the bill asked to halt the bill’s movements after anti-discrimination language was added.

“That’s a Senate bill,” Willard said Monday after the first day of the 2016 legislative session. “We don’t get to Senate bills until after Crossover Day.”

Crossover Day is the 30th day of the 40-day session and the deadline for a bill to move from one chamber to the other without much parliamentary maneuvering. The House and Senate will often spend the first 30 days of session working on their own bills to make sure they beat that Crossover Day deadline.

Of course, there are other ways to get around Willard’s edict. The language from SB 129 can be added to another House bill or House supporters of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, could introduce new legislation with the same language.

Fifty-three percent of registered voters said the state should pass a religious liberty bill, including 43 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of independents, an exclusive new poll for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.

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