Movements Last Week
On April 27, the Missouri House Emerging Issues Committee finally took a vote on SJR 39, a resolution that would have enshrined discrimination in the Missouri Constitution, and the resolution did not have enough votes to advance.
The resolution has generated controversy at every step in the legislative process. Eight state senators waged an epic filibuster, but the Senate voted to approve the measure. Earlier this month, the Emerging Issues Committee heard public testimony during a hearing that spanned over four hours and went late into the night. And then the Committee postponed a vote on the resolution, reportedly due to a lack of support.
Prior to the vote, committee members gave emotional testimony. In the end, the committee vote was 6-6. With a tie vote, the bill fails to advance. Although some have discussed using a procedural maneuver to bring the measure to the House, House Speaker Todd Richardson, has indicated that is unlikely , and thus the measure appears effectively dead for the session.
Tennessee Governor Haslam signed HB 1840/SB 1556 into law. Now, therapists and counselors can use their own religious and moral beliefs to justify denying health care services to patients and clients. As a result, Tennesseans who need mental health services could be discriminated against. Despite widespread opposition from mental health providers, the bill is now law in Tennessee, the only state to pass such a law.
On April 28, the House Armed Services Committee held a marathon mark-up of the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), one of the few must-pass bills in Congress each year. The committee approved an amendment by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) by a vote of 33-29, which would sanction taxpayer-funded employment discrimination. The amendment applies to every federal grant and contract awarded by every federal agency, permitting religiously affiliated organizations (including hospitals and universities) that get grants and contracts to only hire people who belong to the organization’s denomination or profess the same beliefs. The result: government-funded jobs will be denied to qualified candidates because they are of the “wrong religion.”
The bill will be considered by the full House of Representatives during the week of May 16; the Senate Armed Services Committee will mark up its version of the NDAA during the week of May 9.