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As Texas considers Indiana-style religious freedom bill, businesses warn of Indiana-style backlash

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The Texas Association of Business and state Democrats stood side-by-side yesterday to declare that proposed amendments to the state’s constitution that resemble Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act would “devastate economic development” in the state, The Texas Tribune‘s Edgar Walters reported.

There are two proposed amendments, one in the state House and another in the Senate. Republican Representative Matt Krause’s House bill, HJR 125, would prohibit “the state…or any political subdivision of the state [from] burdening in any way a person’s free exercise of religion,” and places a similar prohibition on homeowners’ associations.

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The Senate bill sponsored by Donna Campbell (R), SJR 10, contains similar language, but goes one step further by defining “burden” as potentially being both direct and indirect, with the latter including “withholding benefits, assessing penalties, and denying access to facilities or programs.”

Krause said his House bill — which would require voter approval — is necessary because religious liberty is “the bedrock of what Texas, and even America, was founded on.”

“I’ve yet to talk to somebody who thinks the protection of religious liberty is a bad idea,” he added, telling KVUE that there has not been “one instance in the last 16 years where [the state’s current religious freedom law] hurt business.”

He did, however, acknowledge that his amendment “could” lead to discrimination, but insisted that it probably wouldn’t.

“The onus would be on the cake bakers to show how their sincerely-held religious belief has been burdened or substantially burdened, and then the government would have to show a compelling state interest of why they should have to do that,” he said. “A lot of people are saying this is a license to discriminate, people are just going to quit serving gay individuals or gay couples. I’m not aware of one business that says, ‘We don’t serve gay couples.'”

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Business leaders, however, do believe that de facto approval of discrimination by the state tells the rest of the country that “Texas is not a friendship state.” Passage of either amendment, Texas Association of Business’ chief executive Bill Hammond added, “would devastate economic development, tourism, and the convention business.”

“I think you’re seeing support in general evaporate based on the situation in Indiana. One has to look no further than Indiana to realize what a detriment this would be, and how hard it would be to sell Texas to the rest of the country. The Super Bowl, the Final Four, all those things would be at risk in Texas if this were to become part of our Constitution,” he continued.

The Association’s president, Chris Wallace, concurred, saying that “business owners are going to have to be enforcers of this legislation, and we certainly do not want to place any more burdens on business than there already are.”

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Wallace also noted that some of state’s largest employers, including American Airlines and Apple, have already made their vehement objections to such legislation known.

State Representative Rafael Anchia (D) explained that many of the Fortune 100 companies in his district already have LGBT protections in place, and would be opposed to the state issuing “a license to discriminate against the LGBT community.”

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Trump’s lawyers slammed by CNN’s Toobin for ‘parade of lies’ about Biden’s involvement in Ukraine

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On CNN Monday, chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin argued that the White House team's defense in the impeachment trial was disastrously bad.

"I thought Attorney General [Pam] Bondi did an effective job of showing how sleazy the hiring of Hunter Biden was," acknowledged Toobin. However, he added "her discussion, and Eric Herschmann's discussion, of the role of Joe Biden, vice president at the time, was a parade of lies. Just outrageously false in every fact, in every insinuation ... this idea that he engineered the fire firing of [Ukrainian prosecutor] Viktor Shokin to get his son in. Since Joe Biden is the one who is running for president, that seems to be enormously important."

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Republicans claim Democrats leaked John Bolton’s book that was given to the White House — then quickly back down

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In a bizarre twist, Republicans are blaming Democrats for releasing information included in John Bolton's.

Speaking in a line of Republicans, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) explained that it was clear Democrats were part of some kind of conspiracy to turn senators against the speedy trial the White House wanted. With the revelation that Bolton confirmed President Donald Trump was indeed trying to bribe Ukraine, a very few Republican senators are more willing to call him as a witness.

The problem, of course, with Meadows' accusations is that the manuscript was never sent to Democrats. According to the New York Times report, Bolton sent the book to the White House for security checks to ensure nothing he put in the book was classified.

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Ken Starr defends Trump as Bolton revelations roil trial

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Pressure mounted on Republicans on Monday to call former national security advisor John Bolton as a witness at Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial following explosive new revelations about the US president's dealings with Ukraine.

As Clinton impeachment investigator Ken Starr resumed the White House defense of Trump on the Senate floor, at least three Republican senators indicated they would favor hearing testimony from the 71-year-old Bolton.

According to The New York Times, Bolton, in a draft of his upcoming book, says that Trump told him in August that he wanted to freeze military aid to Ukraine until Kiev opened an investigation into his potential November election rival Joe Biden.

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