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Dylan Scott

Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Dylan

Behind the "religious freedom" movement that burst onto the national scene last week, thanks to the controversial Arizona bill that finally died by Gov. Jan Brewer's veto pen, are -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- several conservative groups with deep pockets and a national reach.

They quickly deny that there's any vast right-wing conspiracy in play, and they're probably right. The societal forces in motion here go beyond the control of any specific interest groups, and there is evidence that the movement is, at least in part, spreading organically. But the bills that have now brought the issue into the national consciousness do have some common origins.

In the wake of the Arizona's bill's defeat and the simultaneous death of other legislation across the country, these groups appear to be distancing themselves from that defeat. They consult with lawmakers nationwide, they say, on a variety of issues. Nothing sinister in that.

"This whole implication that there's conspiracy going on behind the scenes is really laughable," Greg Scott, vice president at the Alliance Defending Freedom, which consulted on the Arizona bill and a similar Ohio bill introduced a month earlier, told TPM in a phone interview. Another group, the American Religious Freedom Project, told TPM that it had advised Kansas lawmakers on their bill.

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Another Arizona anti-gay bill that had largely flown under the radar could be coming up for a vote in the state House, the Arizona Republic reported Friday. The bill would allow judges and other public officials to decline to perform same-sex marriages based on their religious beliefs.

According to the legislature's website, the bill was introduced on Jan. 28. The House Government Committee approved it with a "do pass" recommendation on Feb. 4, and the House Rules Committee cleared it on Feb. 18.

The Republic reported that the legislation was "awaiting debate" in front of the full House.

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House Republicans will vote yet again next week to delay Obamacare's individual mandate for a year, the Washington Examiner reported.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) has introduced a bill that would effectively delay the mandate by eliminating the penalty for not having insurance in 2014 -- formally, it would be $0 -- and pushing the law's penalty of $95 or 1 percent of one's income to 2015.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office confirmed to the Examiner that the House would vote on the bill next week. A one-year delay of the mandate was one of the numerous Obamacare-related gambits that House Republicans made during last fall's government shutdown.

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More than a decade ago, Arkansas Rep. Josh Miller (R) was in a catastrophic car accident that broke his neck and left him paralyzed. Medicare and Medicaid paid the $1 million bill for his hospitalization and rehabilitation.

But this week, as the Arkansas legislature has debated continuing its privatized Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, Miller has remained steadfast in his opposition.

The Arkansas Times highlighted the contrast in a Thursday report. The alternative newspaper reported that Miller receives ongoing coverage through the government programs, including Medicaid-covered personal care assistance.

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If the events of the last week are any indication, the anti-gay movement personified in the Arizona bill vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer Wednesday has already hit its high-watermark.

At the beginning of this month, by TPM's count, bills had been introduced in at least eight states that would legitimize discrimination against LGBT people. The Arizona bill advanced the farthest, clearing the state legislature before Brewer rejected it with her veto stamp. The rest are dead or dying.

Though they expect future fights, gay rights advocates portrayed this week as a "turning point" in the debate.

"I suspect the bright spotlight that’s been put on the broad potential adverse consequences means that a great many legislators and most governors now will think much harder about these bills and be reluctant to endorse them," Jenny Pizer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, a gay rights organization, told TPM. "I do believe we’ve just witnessed a turning-point moment against these bills. But I also don’t expect the folks who hold this worldview to give up their political goals without further popular repudiation.

"We’ll probably see multiple further attempts before the book can be closed on this tactic."

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Terri Lynn Land, the presumptive Republican candidate for Michigan's open Senate seat backed off her prior support for full Obamacare repeal Thursday, with her campaign saying instead that she "applauds" the state's decision to expand Medicaid under the law.

“Terri believes that healthcare should be affordable and accessible to all Americans and that we as a society have a moral obligation to help those who are not as fortunate and their children," Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for Land, told the Washington Post. "Terri applauds Governor Snyder for doing what he believes is best for Michigan families, while complying with mandates from Congress brought down in ObamaCare."

Land had said in a radio interview earlier this month that she wants "to go down there and repeal Obamacare." Americans for Prosperity, a conservative super PAC that has been attacking her likely Democratic opponent, has also campaigned against Michigan's Medicaid expansion.

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In 2010, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer first appeared on the national stage over her state's anti-immigration law, which eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and a showdown with the Obama administration. As a result, her persona to those outside of Arizona was of a far-right conservative, looking to kick undocumented immigrants back over the border.

In many ways, that image has stuck. But after her veto Wednesday of the anti-gay bill passed by her state legislature, a new assessment might be in order: Jan Brewer, the Obamacare-loving gay rights warrior.

On two high-profile issues now, Brewer has bucked Arizona's hard-line conservatives and made what most would consider the pragmatic decision. In 2013, she persuaded the legislature to adopt Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, going so far as to threaten to veto any other bill that reached her desk until it acquiesced. And this week, with the eyes of the nation on her, she struck down legislation that had spurred a national backlash and had once again, as in the period after she signed the immigration bill, conjured the conception of her state as one of the more intolerant and backward states in the Union.

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A Mississippi "religious freedom" bill, similar to the one vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Wednesday, has had its most controversial provision stripped out by a legislative committee.

The Mississippi Business Journal reported that the language considered problematic by civil rights groups had been removed from the bill Wednesday by lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee. It would have allowed defendants in civil lawsuits to claim that their religious beliefs were being burdened.

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The Center for Arizona Policy, which helped craft the anti-gay legislation that Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed Wednesday, said the bill's rejection "marks a sad day for Arizonans who understand and cherish religious liberty."

"Opponents were desperate to distort this bill rather than debate the merits. Essentially, they succeeded in getting a veto of a bill that does not even exist," the group's president Cathi Herrod said in a statement. "When the force of government compels one to speak or act contrary to their conscience, the government injures not only the dignity of the afflicted, but the dignity of our society as a whole."

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