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Governor signs revamped 'religious freedom' bill.

The Arkansas Legislature last week passed a revamped version of a "religious freedom" bill after Gov. Asa Hutchinson requested changes to bring it more in line with a 1993 federal law.

The governor signed the measure last week after it passed both chambers.

The Republican governor said he wanted changes to the bill that lawmakers sent him prohibiting state and local government from infringing upon someone's religious beliefs without a compelling interest. At a widely watched news conference on Wednesday, Hutchinson said he wanted the Legislature to either recall the bill or pass a follow-up measure to make the proposal more closely mirror the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"What is important from an Arkansas standpoint is one, we get the right balance and secondly, we make sure that we communicate we're not going to be a state that fails to recognize the diversity of our workplace, our economy and our future," Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson initially supported the bill and on Tuesday his office had said he planned to sign it into law.

Meanwhile, Indiana lawmakers announced proposed changes Thursday to its new religious objections law aimed at quelling widespread criticism from businesses and other groups that have called the proposal anti-gay.

Echoing the reaction to Indiana's law, Hutchinson faced pressure from the state's top employers, including retail giant Wal-Mart, which said the measure was discriminatory and would stifle economic development. Little Rock's mayor, the city's Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas-based data services company Acxiom all urged the governor to reject the measure in recent days.

--The Associated Press

Caption: Gov. Asa Hutchinson talks to reporters after a March 26 news conference naming Mike Preston as executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. [PHOTO BY LANCE TURNER]

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Title Annotation:Weekly Report: Government
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Apr 6, 2015
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