A former aide to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign wrote in a wry Sunday opinion editorial that a religious liberty bill under consideration by the General Assembly would “chase away business and jobs” as it “create[s] a frightening solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Marisa Flores, who directed Hispanic outreach for Santorum’s Georgia operation, took to the pages of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer to urge lawmakers to abandon the First Amendment Defense Act lest the local economy backslide.
“For the first time in eight years, Georgia’s unemployment rate fell last month to pre-recession levels,” Flores wrote. “Things were looking up for the state, finally. And then the Georgia General Assembly convened.
“Rather than busy itself with a growth-oriented agenda that might capitalize on the shifting economic tide, lawmakers instead proposed a smattering of bills that would facilitate discrimination by government and business against law-abiding Georgians. Just what we need: something to chase away business and jobs.”
Flores, who said the proposal would facilitate discrimination against gays and lesbians, cohabitating unmarried couples, and divorced persons, said she was terrified government would “grow to a size to empower itself and others to discriminate.”
“Faith genuinely informs my politics, just as it does for Sen. Santorum,” she wrote. “I place my faith in God, not government — and I don’t need government to tell me how to exercise my faith. The expression of my faith free of government intrusion is not in jeopardy, I am certain. But the safety and wellness of some among us are.”
The vehicle for the commentary’s publication is worth noting: the Ledger-Enquirer is the largest newspaper in the district of Senator Josh McKoon, the chief sponsor of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and one of the most vocal proponents in the legislature of related proposals.
Opportunity.US, a young conservative group led by the grandson of former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., came out Monday in opposition to Georgia’s First Amendment Defense Act, a controversial religious liberty proposal that critics argue would facilitate discrimination against gays and lesbians.
“Young professionals today demand that political leaders embrace policies ensuring our competitiveness and equality of opportunity,” Beau Allen, Opportunity.US co-founder, said in a statement provided to Tipsheet. “Opportunity.US stands with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and like-minded groups who fiercely oppose the proposed First Amendment Defense Act, a discriminatory bill which threatens the progress our great City and State has made in the past decades.
“The next generation of our nation’s leaders believe in an inclusive society creating economic and political opportunity for all.”
Opportunity.US, a social welfare outgrowth of the Republican super PAC Concord 51, has previously played in Georgia, endorsing U.S. Senator David Perdue and Georgia state Sen. Hunter Hill.
As the Georgia Aquarium celebrates its tenth anniversary, a new economic impact study finds the museum has injected $1.9 billion in the local economy in the last decade.
According to a new report by Bleakly Advisory Group, since opening the Aquarium has attracted some 22 million visitors, from which a majority hailed out of state, and contributed $8.1 million annually in state and local sales taxes in the last year.
“Every dollar invested in Georgia Aquarium generates an additional $2.50 of private and public investment to the area,” chief operating officer Joe Handy told the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Already the largest aquarium in North America, the facility is slated to open a new $40 million California sea lion exhibit next month, with later expansions for an expanded dolphin exhibit underway as well.
The publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle wrote Wednesday on the newspaper’s website that a religious liberty proposal under consideration by the General Assembly “threatens to undo so much of the progress our region has made.”
David Rubinger, who was named publisher of the weekly business paper last year, said the giants of Atlanta history—”[l]ast names like Woodruff, Hartsfield, Russel, Abernathy, and King”—would be “appalled” by the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow for persons and non-profits to deny service on the grounds of sincerely held religious beliefs.
Critics of the legislation maintain it will enable discrimination against gays and lesbians, single mothers, unmarried co-habitating couples, and divorced persons.
Already some businesses have said they intend to leave the state in protest, like the Decatur-based telecommunications startup 373k, and some fear that the film and entertainment industry will boycott the state if it is perceived as a discriminatory environment.
“Most Atlanta business and civic leaders believe that this bill should never have gotten to this point,” Rubinger wrote. “Now the business community is rallying to speak as one voice, protecting Atlanta from the potential public relations damage this legislation could have on future business growth, convention business, and sporting events like the Super Bowl.
“If Gov. Nathan Deal and the Speaker of the House David Ralston are unable to untangle this mess that the General Assembly has created, then it is much more than the LGBT community that suffers,” he said. “We will all suffer is business, conventions and major events decide to leave our city over this debate.”
The bill passed the state Senate last week and awaits final consideration by the House of Representatives.
More than 100 Georgia families say they are willing to face federal drug trafficking prosecution in a show of mass civil disobedience after a House committee gutted legislation that would have allowed for in-state cultivation of a non-euphoric form of medical marijuana.
The General Assembly last year approved the use of cannabis oil, a marijuana derivative with low levels of THC, for the treatment of a handful of acute medical conditions. But because that legislation stopped short of green lighting in-state cultivation, those wishing to use the substance must risk violating federal law that prohibits the transportation of the oil across state lines.
Republican Rep. Allen Peake, who muscled the initial legalization proposal through the General Assembly last year, introduced legislation this session that would regulate the growth and production of the substance within the state.
But the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee stripped the marquee provision from the bill on Monday and instead moved only to expand the list of conditions whose sufferers qualify for treatment.
Now, parents who say their children desperately require access to the treatment are willing to be arrested in protest of the bill’s demise.
“Cultivation is the only thing that gives everybody and equal footing, and it’s fair and equitable to the entire state – not just the well-connected, not just those that have protection from lawmakers,” Dale Jackson, whose seven-year-old son is severely autistic, told Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA. “We’re sick and tired of it. And today is the day the governor is going to have to answer the question, ‘Am I willing to allow Georgian citizens to risk breaking federal law, publically? ‘Am I going to stand up as governor to protect these families against the feds?’
“Is he willing to deal with that storm coming upon his state?” Jackson asked. “Because we are prepared, with over a hundred families that are willing to go public with this, across the entire state of Georgia. We are not playing around.”
Legislation to allow for the in-state cultivation of a non-euphoric form of medical marijuana was neutered by a House committee this week, stripping the bill’s marquee provision and instead only expanding the number of conditions whose sufferers may qualify for treatment.
The General Assembly last year approved the use of cannabis oil, a marijuana derivative, for the treatment of a handful of acute medical conditions. But because that legislation stopped short of greenlighting in-state cultivation, those wishing to use the substance must risk violating federal law that prohibits the transportation of the oil across state lines.
State Rep. Allen Peake, who muscled “Haleigh’s Hope Act” through the legislature last year, had hoped to clear that final hurdle this session, but the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee gutted the provision on Monday.
The bill faced opposition from Governor Nathan Deal and law enforcement groups, who testified against it in committee hearings earlier this month.
Peake, who is favored to win reelection from his middle Georgia district, told reporters that he intends to reintroduce the legislation next year.
A federal judge on Tuesday denied a petition by a handful of voting and civil rights groups to block Georgia and three other states from requiring new voters demonstrate citizenship.
The Georgia NAACP and the League of Women Voters had sought an injunction to prevent the four states—Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, and Kansas—from using new voter registration forms that require proof of citizenship. The policy had been previously approved by federal officials at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an independent agency created in 2002.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon denied the group’s requests for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, writing that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate the new policy would cause “irreparable harm.”
“Given that the registration deadlines for the Alabama and Georgia primaries and for the Kansas Republican Caucus had already passed at the time this TRO motion was filed … and that the effects of [the federal] actions on the ongoing registration process for the Kansas Democratic Caucus and the plaintiffs’ rights and efforts thereto are uncertain at best, plaintiffs have not demonstrated they will suffer irreparable harm before the hearing on their Motion for a Preliminary Injunction,” Leon wrote in a Tuesday order.
The judge set that hearing for March 9, a week after Georgia voters will head to the polls in the state’s presidential primary.