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One anti-gay bill pulled

One down, too many to count to go.

RedEquality

A House Republican will no longer seek to amend the Texas Constitution to prohibit state and local governments from “in any way” restricting the free exercise of religion, leaving several conservative legislators hustling Tuesday to file an alternate bill.

Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, said opposition from the Texas Association of Business cemented his growing discomfort with legislation he had filed in December, House Joint Resolution 55, that has also been criticized for potentially undermining nondiscrimination ordinances adopted by cities, including Austin, to protect gays and lesbians.

“When the Texas Association of Business let us know that in their opinion it would harm businesses, that’s when I just couldn’t continue in its support,” Villalba said Tuesday. “So I will not ask for a hearing. … and I will not be moving forward on that legislation.”

Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, said discussions are underway to determine if similar legislation can be submitted by Friday’s bill-filing deadline.

“I definitely feel there’s interest there. Who that is going to be, I couldn’t tell you at this point,” said Krause, who helped Villalba draft the proposed amendment. “But we’re three days away from the deadline, and that makes it a little harder to start those conversations again.”

A similar bill by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, would bar government from infringing on Texans’ “sincerely held religious beliefs.” A public hearing, the first step in the legislative process, has not yet been set on Campbell’s Senate Joint Resolution 10.

See here, here, and here for the background. Kudos to Rep. Villalba, usually not one of the nutcases, for coming to his senses, though really one should not expect much praise for backing away from a destructive idea. More kudos go to TAB for having a positive effect on the Republicans they claim to have influence over for once. The job isn’t over until the deadline for bills to pass on first reading, and there is still time for another bill like HR55 to be filed, so let’s don’t get complacent. In the meantime, there’s still the larger issue of groups like TAB enabling legislators who go on to file the kind of bills they then have to spend time and effort fighting. Sadly, Donna Campbell won’t be on the ballot again until 2018, but there will be plenty of House members who could use a good primarying. If you really do care about this, TAB, put your money where your mouth is next March. RG Ratcliffe has more.

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