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RFRA bill killed by Senate; opponents claim victory

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An unlikely coalition killed an amended version of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act Wednesday night in the state Senate.

Democrats who opposed the legislation to begin with, and GOP Senators who preferred the original House bill and didn’t think the amended bill went far enough, combined to vote down the bill on third reading, 27-7.

MORE see Senate roll call vote here

“The changes that we made in the Senate to insert anti-discrimination language, to ensure clergy are protected and the vaccination provisions, if you felt that those were not an improvement to the bill, and you couldn’t take anything less than what came from the House, then you should vote against it,” said Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael.

Sen. Corey Palumbo (D-Kanawha), who proposed the amendment that passed the Senate yesterday on a 23-11 vote, had no doubt the bill was all about discrimination.

“When you say you can’t violate non-discrimination ordinances in this bill (and) you say that guts it, then you know what the bill was all about,” he said. “It’s all about trying to discriminate and trying to get around these ordinances. It’s obvious.”

He called what in his mind was misinformation on his amendment “at a minimum disingenous” and “at worst intentionally misleading.”

Senate President Bill Cole, who supported the original House bill and was one of the twenty-seven ‘no’ votes on the amended version, expressed a weariness on the bill and wanted to move on.

“It’s over. I mean obviously the vote today frankly surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Cole said. “I stood in support of the original House bill and that’s the way I voted all the way through. We need to get to work on the budget right now. We truly do.”

There’s an outside chance there could be a motion of reconsideration Thursday by a member of the Senate, but Carmichael saw that prospect unlikely.

“It’s dead,” he said simply. “That bill is dead.”

Carmichael gave an emotional speech on the floor Tuesday night in support of Palumbo’s amendment before its passage.

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