Gov. Nathan Deal, with his floor leaders to his side, held a press conference Wednesday, at which he announced he would sign an income tax reduction bill that had been stripped of a jet fuel tax credit intended to benefit Delta Air Lines. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

The Jolt: The Delta/NRA flap morphs into a campaign tool

With Gov. Nathan Deal’s press conference late Wednesday, the Delta/NRA flap can be considered over. For the moment, there’s no more to be done with the issue – except gather up the names ticked-off gun enthusiasts for the coming primary.

Or raise money from those on the other side.

Back in 2015, state Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus, a staunch supporter of “religious liberty” measures, condemned Delta Air Lines for his attempts to give legal protections to those who would prefer not to do business with same sex couples. Said McKoon:

“We’ve had this problem because very large multi-national corporations that are headquartered in this state – their executives, many of whom are not from Georgia, have different values than you and I do. They think that their cultural norms, their liberal, far-left cultural norms, should be applied to our state.”

But McKoon was feeling more charitable last night. His GOP campaign for secretary of state appeared to cut the hometown airline some slack. Delta didn’t want to cut ties with the National Rifle Association, McKoon said. It was badgered into the decision:

“The liberal left is at it again. This time they are bullying private companies for supporting the National Rifle Association,” the email began – eventually asking Internet readers to sign a petition.

Members of the Legislature are barred from soliciting campaign cash during the session. But there’s no law against taking names and hitting up potential donors afterwards.

On the Democratic side, gubernatorial candidate Stacey Evans was more direct. No longer in the Legislature, the former Smyrna representative has decided that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who quickly became the face of NRA outrage when he vowed to “kill” the Delta tax cut this week, makes a fine fundraising foil. Her pitch:

“As soon as Lt. Governor Cagle made his careless threats, elected officials in Alabama, New York, and Virginia publicly stated that they would love to host Delta in their state.

“The tens of thousands of Georgians employed by Delta should not have to worry about whether Lt. Governor Cagle will say something reckless that will impact their job security.”

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2/28/18 - Atlanta - Gov. Nathan Deal held a press conference to address the jet fuel tax cut issue after the Senate Rules Committee stripped the Delta tax cut from legislation. Gov. Nathan Deal and legislative leaders had hoped they could make a deal Wednesday on the Delta fuel tax legislation - which also includes a state income tax rate cut. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Gov. Nathan Deal had a unique spin on how the dust-up with Delta might actually benefit Georgia’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. He conceded that it doesn’t “help” Georgia, but the fracas did show off another side of the Peach State.

“If you’re looking for a state with diversity, welcome to the state of Georgia. We are a very diverse state. Diversity is not only represented by the color of someone’s skin or their party allegiance, it’s also represented by diversity of different opinions,” he said. “I think they understand that.” 

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The Republican governor also said he recently met with Delta chief executive Ed Bastian to settle nerves over the airline’s snub. Deal said he also had a blunt message in that sit-down: “We didn’t start this.” 

“Delta made an action that caused this dispute to erupt. I’ve tried my best to resolve it, I’m still hopeful that some of those feelings and positions can be rectified. ... There are a lot of people who share the blame that happened here. I’m not putting the blame just on folks who have been outspoken on this issue.”

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On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today, author/journalist Jon Meacham said recent corporate reactions to gun violence – by Delta, Wal-Mart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and others – reminds him of Atlanta’s strategy during the 1960s. Said Meacham:

“I was thinking about Atlanta, which famously struggled to be the city that was too busy to hate during Jim Crow, into the civil rights movement. There were a series of mayors, a series of town leaders who, while not perfect, very much wanted to have a major league baseball team, have the NFL, have Delta Air Lines come down.

“They wanted to be a genuine New South. And they knew that if they could keep the emphasis on their better angels, then they would have a better chance of prospering. And Atlanta became Atlanta in part because of that attitude.

“And so, here you have a situation in which a number of important corporations and commercial actors are saying, ‘If the government’s not going to act, we’ll do it.’”

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Speaking of state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus: Here’s what he posted on his Facebook page this morning:

I was made aware of press reports today suggesting that Republicans were holding up the vote on my SR 587 on Official English. 

That couldn't be further from the truth. Every Republican I spoke to was ready to vote for this legislation. Ultimately it didn't come to the floor because we couldn't get a single Democrat to vote to allow Georgians to decide to make English our official language. That is why it is so important to restore our supermajority in the State Senate. #gapol #gagop

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Ramsey Cook rolls a tractor tire around the state Capitol – part of an effort to bring attention to legislation aimed at restoring funding for state clean community programs. She is one of the volunteers with the Georgia Water Coalition who planned to hold a 24-hour marathon scrap tire roll at the state Capitol. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Video: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

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One of the last actions in the state House on Crossover Day, which stretched past midnight, was the defeat of a bill that, for the first time, would have allowed any student in the state to attend private school with a public tuition subsidy. From our AJC colleague Ty Tagami:

House Bill 482 would have created the first direct subsidy -- critics called it a “voucher” -- for any student to attend a private school. It would have allowed a limited number of parents to establish a state-funded savings account for educational expenses, including private school tuition.

“Let’s give 4,300 kids a chance at a better education,” said Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock, the main sponsor. Rep. Valencia Stovall, D-Forest Park, also spoke in favor of the bill, saying some students, especially those with special needs, could benefit from the option to attend private schools.

The bill failed, 60 to 102.

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The state Senate adjourned hours earlier. One of its final actions was a 49-3 vote to approve a resolution to permanently close Mitchell Street adjacent to the state Capitol. The one-block stretch was temporarily closed this session after a young driver stopped at a crosswalk by a Capitol police officer displayed a gun.

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Georgia tea partyer Debbie Dooley, who several years back moved into House Speaker David Ralston’s House district to organize an unsuccessful effort to topple him, has gotten herself a write-up in the New York Times as an environmental conservative:

Over the last five years, she has unabashedly linked arms with environmental groups championed by the left, like the Sierra Club. And on Thursday, she is set to appear at an event in San Francisco with a member of the Democratic National Committee’s executive committee — Christine Pelosi, daughter of Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader vilified by the right.

“You can have success if you have environmentalists look at saving the environment as an ethic, and evangelicals as saving God’s creation,” Christine Pelosi said. “You don’t have to agree on everything.”

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Ex-congressional candidate Jon Ossoff endorsed Lucy McBath’s bid for a competitive state House seat based in Marietta. Ossoff said in a tweet that McBath is an “inspiring” candidate who launched her bid after losing her son to a “senseless act of gun violence.” She is challenging state Rep. Sam Teasley, a Republican, in a district that went narrowly to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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Harvard University has announced that U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, will deliver the commencement address at this year’s graduation festivities. The Ivy League school granted the Democrat and longtime civil rights figure an honorary law degree in 2012. 

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