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Josh McKoon

David Goldman / Associated Press

Monday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

Senator Josh McKoon
Al Such / WABE

A state senator known for championing contentious legislation protecting people acting on religious belief has announced that he won't run for re-election.

State Sen. Josh McKoon announced Monday that he won't seek re-election in 2018. McKoon, a Republican from Columbus, said that he is not "taking anything off the table" in terms of what may come next for his career.

When he leaves, he will have served as a senator for eight years, which he said is enough.

Elly Yu / WABE

When Ivan Morales heard about a Fulton County Superior Court judge’s ruling that would allow immigrant students who have temporary permission to stay in the country to pay in-state tuition at Georgia’s public colleges, he was thrilled.

Elly Yu

Two new political allies have spent the past few days traveling around Georgia to oppose Amendment Three on next week's ballot.

The constitutional amendment, if passed, would allow the state legislature to recreate the state agency that investigates judicial ethics complaints, also known as the Judicial Qualifications Commission. 

State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, has teamed up with Lester Tate, a Democrat and former chairman of the commission to campaign against the measure. 

David Goldman / Associated Press

The key lawmaker behind a plan on November's ballot to overhaul the state's judicial watchdog agency says he hopes people will approve it even if they don't know much about it.

Amendment 3 on November’s ballot would allow the state Legislature to recreate the Judicial Qualifications Commission – the agency that investigates ethics and misconduct complaints against state judges.

Closer Look: Piper Kerman; Pumpkin Patches; And More

Oct 26, 2016
Al Such / WABE

Wednesday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

David Goldman / Associated Press

Among several ballot measures next month, Georgia voters will be asked whether they want to change the agency that polices judges in the state, known as the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC). If passed, the constitutional amendment would allow state lawmakers to recreate the commission.

Supporters say the changes are needed because the watchdog agency needs more oversight, but critics say the move would strip the agency of its political independence and effectiveness.

What Does the JQC Do?

Jim Burress / WABE

Tuesday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

Closer Look: Religious Exemption Bill Veto And More

Mar 28, 2016
David Goldman / Associated Press

Monday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

David Goldman / ap Photo

The Georgia House of Representatives Thursday passed, in a 161-0 vote, a bill known as the “Pastor Protection Act,” to reassure clergy they will not be forced to perform same-sex weddings. The vote is unlikely to end debate over as many as nine other bills meant to expand religious freedom that are currently pending in the Georgia legislature.

In a rare speech before the chamber, House Speaker David Ralston called for lawmakers to come together.

Elly Yu / WABE

A Georgia lawmaker wants immigrants who have temporary relief from deportation to replace their driver’s licenses with cards that can’t be used for identification purposes, and that are marked with the words “illegal alien.” 

Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, tried last year to ban driver’s licenses for immigrants without legal status who have temporary protection from deportation. The proposal failed in the Senate.  

John Bazemore / Associated Press

State Rep. Tommy Benton (R–Jefferson) on Monday removed himself as the sponsor of bills meant to protect the carvings of Confederate heroes on Stone Mountain and bring prominence to Confederate holidays.

In a simultaneous statement, House Speaker David Ralston (R–Blue Ridge) condemned comments the representative made last week to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Ku Klux Klan wasn’t racist and that they “kept law and order.”

Benton also compared people seeking to remove the carvings of Confederate heroes on Stone Mountain to the terrorist group ISIS.

David Goldman / Associated Press

A Georgia senator wants to add a constitutional amendment to make English the state's official language.

The General Assembly already passed a law in 1996 declaring English as the state’s official language, but state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) says he wants to put the law into the state’s constitution so that it’s harder to change in the future.

Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

Some of the country's biggest companies have joined in a marketing campaign to promote equal rights in Georgia.

This news comes just days before the Georgia General Assembly begins, where a controversial religious freedom bill could dominate.

The new Georgia Prospers campaign includes big names like Google and AT&T.

Its mission statement makes the same argument that other corporations have in the past: in-state businesses won't do well if Georgia doesn't look hospitable to LGBT people.

Georgia Sen. Josh McKoon, left, who is sponsoring the "religious freedom" bill, talks to Sen. Mike Crane, right, in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol on the final day of the 2015 legislative session April 2, 2015, in Atlanta.
Branden Camp / Associated Press


The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down bans on same-sex marriage in Georgia and other states has raised a new debate.

One of the many questions is whether the decision will have any effect on the fight over the bill titled the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

On “A Closer Look,” the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), provided an update on his plans to re-introduce that measure and related topics.

Fight Over Ga.’s 'Religious Freedom' Bill Far From Over

May 22, 2015
Katy Clyde, from left, Patricia Lassiter and Wandra Jordan, all of Columbus, Ga., cheer during a rally against a contentious "religious freedom" bill, Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Atlanta. The Georgia Senate gave decisive approval to the bill, one of a wav
David Goldman / Associated Press

The fight over Georgia’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, did not end when the measure stalled in the state legislature last month.

Debate over the RFRA measure continued last weekend at the Republican State Convention in Athens.

Convention delegates agreed on a resolution that urged GOP lawmakers to pass the bill without an amendment that would prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

David Goldman / Associated Press


The Religious Freedom Restoration Act effort is far from over in Georgia. 

Columbus Republican Sen. Josh McKoon is vowing to bring back the potentially controversial legislation next year during the 2016 General Assembly.

McKoon’s bill passed the Senate, but stalled in the House during this year’s session of the legislature.

The lawmaker talked with Rose Scott and Denis O’Hayer on “A Closer Look.”

Michelle Wirth / WABE

On Tuesday, the Georgia Senate defeated a proposal that would have banned those with deferred action from getting a Georgia driver’s license.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program came from executive actions taken by President Barack Obama. It allows many who arrived illegally as children to temporarily stay in the U.S. and apply for work visas. Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, tried to add language to a House bill that would have prevented those with deferred action status from getting driver’s licenses.

Jonathan Shapiro / WABE

Time is running out for Georgia's "religious liberty" bill. 

A special hearing on the legislation scheduled for Monday was abruptly canceled this weekend.

But the bill’s author, Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, remains hopeful. 

"I obviously would have liked for us to have moved forward this morning, but I'm going to keep making the case and work hard to get it moved," said McKoon. "I'm exploring all possible options."

Ga. House Committee To Reconsider 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Mar 27, 2015
Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, confers with House Majority Leader Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone, during this morning’s Senate session.
Denis O'Hayer / WABE

There may be new life for Georgia’s "religious liberty" bill. Lawmakers have scheduled a committee meeting on Monday, and the topic is expected to be the controversial legislation.

The move comes a day after a key House committee tabled it. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said Friday the fight isn’t over.

"We are undeterred. We are not going to stop. We are going to keep working," he said on the Senate floor. "We’re going to prevail in this debate. It may be this year or next year, but we’ll get there."

Georgia House Committee Tables 'Religious Liberty' Bill

Mar 26, 2015
Officers stand at the door to a packed House subcommittee panel on a "religious freedom" bill, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, in Atlanta.  The panel heard hours of testimony on Tuesday, the first action on the issue in the House this session.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia’s "religious liberty" bill appears dead for the year.

A key House committee tabled it Thursday. With only three days left in this year’s legislative session, the bill’s prospects look dim.  

At a House Judiciary Committee meeting, supporters insisted the state needs to better protect religious expression from government overreach. They strongly denied critics’ assertions that it would provide a means to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Denis O'Hayer/WABE News

With the clock ticking on this year's legislative session, Georgia's "religious liberty" bill remains alive, despite concerns that it may open the door to discrimination against gays and lesbians.

A House Judiciary subcommittee held its first hearing on the controversial bill Tuesday. Dozens packed into a small committee room, and dozens more waited outside for a chance to weigh in.

Religious Freedom Bill's Author Speaks Out

Mar 18, 2015
State Senator Josh McKoon talks with supporters at the Wild Hog Dinner in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Sen. Josh McKoon, R- Columbus, joined "A Closer Look" Tuesday to discuss the controversial religious freedom bill in the Georgia legislature. 

SB 129, authored by McKoon, has passed the state Senate. 

On "A Closer Look," McKoon said the bill will create a "balancing test that allows the court to sort of weigh the individual's right of free exercise against the government's interest."

Michelle Wirth / WABE

A controversial bill supporters say is needed to protect the religious rights of Georgians gained the approval of the state Senate. But the "religious freedom" bill passed over the objection of Senate Democrats.

Democrats argued the measure could lead to unjust treatment of gays and lesbians. Sen. Curt Thompson, D-Tucker, worries it could be used to deny marriage licenses to gay couples if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down gay marriage bans.

State Senator Josh McKoon talks with supporters at the Wild Hog Dinner in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Opposition is mounting against the Religious Freedom Bill, which the legislature is expected to take up this session.

The latest objections to the controversial legislation come in the form of newspaper advertisements that ran Monday morning in the Marietta Daily Journal and the Columbus Ledger Enquirer ─ the hometown newspapers of Republican bill sponsors Rep. Sam Teasley and Sen. Josh McKoon.

The full-page ads, which were taken out by the left-leaning group Better Georgia, charge that the bill would give legal cover to some people accused of child abuse. 

The Georgia Senate is scheduled to hear a proposal Thursday that would allow consumers to bypass a physician's referral when seeking physical therapy.
Ken Lund /

The “religious freedom bill” proposed for this legislative session is likely to stimulate a lot of debate and controversy.

In fact, if you were to ask Bryan Long what he sees as the biggest issue shaping up under the Gold Dome this session, he doesn’t hesitate. “Absolutely, top-of-the-list is this ‘religious freedom bill,’” he says.

State Senator Josh McKoon talks with supporters at the Wild Hog Dinner in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

President Obama will unveil his executive action plan for immigration today. The president is expected to expand deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), a program that has allowed many who arrived illegally in this country as children to temporarily stay in the U.S. and apply for work visas.

One Georgia Republican lawmaker is already trying to combat the efforts.

A bill pre-filed by Republican state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) would make getting a driver’s license illegal for those who qualify for deferred action status.

Josh McKoon
Denis O'Hayer/WABE

A conservative group claiming more than two million members says it will call for a boycott of some of Georgia’s largest corporations.

The group, made up of several organizations, including the 1.4-million member Georgia Baptist Convention, blames the companies for the failure of Senate Bill 377.

Called the “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act,” the measure would have allowed private businesses to deny service based on the business owner’s religious beliefs. A common concern is that SB 377 would allow businesses the right to deny service to gay customers.

Senate 'Religious Freedom' Bill Tabled and Likely Dead

Feb 26, 2014
Ga. Senate

A 'religious freedom' bill that opponents said would open the door to discrimination against the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community appears dead for the year.

Any legislation with a chance of passing this session must be approved by at least one chamber by Monday’s Crossover Day deadline.

Ga. House of Reps.

One of the most controversial bills considered by the state House this year is likely dead for the session. However, a companion bill in the Senate remains alive.

Critics of House Bill 1023, or The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, say it would allow private business owners to cite their religious beliefs as a reason to deny service to gay customers.