Capitol Recap: The Delta fracas — no peanuts or pretzels, but red meat

Delta Air Lines’ decision to discontinue discounts for National Rifle Association members proved to be fertile ground for Georgia politicians wishing to bash the air carrier — especially the ones running for higher office.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who can't wait to measure for curtains in the Governor's Mansion, made a splash by leading the call to block a $50 million tax exemption on jet fuel that Delta sought.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who's running hard against Cagle for the Republican nomination for governor, backed the NRA in this tussle by throwing in a tax cut — the filet mignon of red meat for Republicans — calling for a sales tax holiday for guns and ammunition. Adding a little steak sauce, he wants it timed with the Fourth of July.

The other three Republicans in the governor's race — former state Sen. Hunter Hill, businessman Clay Tippins and state Sen. Michael Williams — want to make it clear that they also expect to have a hard time collecting campaign donations from Delta execs in the future. They all say they opposed the tax break even before Delta and the NRA went the way of Brad and Angelina.

Williams also took his case to CNN, where he said that if Delta is going to break off its association with the NRA, "why not pull it for Planned Parenthood?"

The CNN host, Brianna Keilar, questioned Williams’ assertion about a Delta-Planned Parenthood partnership.

“Where are you getting that?” she asked. “… I’ve seen allegations of that on right-wing blogs, but I’ve seen no verification of that.”

Williams told Keilar that he and other senators “looked it up on Google.”

It seems that two degrees of separation is close enough for Williams.

A day after he appeared on CNN, Williams said in a statement that his claim was based on Delta’s partnership with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, a breast cancer charity. Komen partners with Planned Parenthood, which in addition to being a provider of abortions, conducts hundreds of thousands of breast cancer screenings each year. Another prominent Georgia Republican, U.S. Rep. Karen Handel of Roswell, tried to break that bond when she was working for Komen.

“My original point is clear,” he said. “Delta has no problem supporting left-wing organizations and abortion advocates while they cut ties with 2nd Amendment Rights advocates. That’s not neutral.”

Conflict is opportunity: One rule of politics is that almost anything can be good for fundraising.

State Sen. Josh McKoon and former state Rep. Stacey Evans are good politicians.

Both found opportunity in the Delta fracas.

McKoon, a GOP candidate for Georgia secretary of state, sent out a campaign email that said Delta only broke away from the NRA because somebody else forced the airline to do it. Guess who did it.

“The liberal left is at it again. This time they are bullying private companies for supporting the National Rifle Association,” the campaign’s email began.

The note eventually got around to asking readers to sign a petition.

At the moment, McKoon and other legislators are barred from soliciting campaign donations because the Legislature is still in session. But now he has a list of people who think the way he does and just may open up their wallets later.

As a former legislator, Evans faces no such limitations as she pursues the Democratic nomination for governor.

She decided to go after Cagle with this 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.”

Tens of thousands represent a good opportunity.

Tax is the new tact:Two bills that had a bad Crossover Day were Senate Bill 418 and House Bill 948, identical pieces of legislation that would block local governments from prohibiting the retail sales of dogs and cats in pet stores. SB 418 failed in a Senate floor vote, and HB 948 never even got that far along in the process.

Many jurisdictions have opted for the bans, hoping to encourage adoptions from animal shelters and to discourage “puppy mills.”

But the supporters that SB 418 and HB 948 did attract tend to look beyond puppies and kittens, showing concern about future limitations at the local level on a larger segment of capitalism. SB 418's sponsor, state Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, said Wednesday that his bill was necessary to "protect the free market."

But fear not, capitalists, there’s more than one way to skin — yeah, let’s just stop there.

A Plan B has surfaced in Florida, where the same fight is being fought.

Like Eliot Ness when he snared Al Capone, Floridians seeking to halt such prohibitions are focusing on tax law.

The following language is finding its way into tax legislation in the Sunshine State:

“Except as otherwise provided by law, a county, municipality, or other entity of local government may not prohibit the sale or offering for sale of tangible personal property subject to the tax imposed by (state law) which may be lawfully sold in this state. Any such ordinance or rule is void.”

Opponents of the Georgia bills say keep your eyes peeled for similar insertions here.

Turnover in Gwinnett: Earlier this month, Gwinnett County GOP Chairman Mike Seigle dropped hints — after state Rep. David Casas, a Republican from Lilburn, announced he would not seek re-election — that another of the county's GOP legislators would probably choose not to return to the Gold Dome.

Now, employing the political catchphrase of the day, Seigle can double down.

Two of Gwinnett’s GOP legislators announced their plans to follow Casas up I-85 and out of the capital city.

State Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, is leaving after spending 26 years in the General Assembly. He is best known as the longtime chairman of the state House Education Committee.

Then state Rep. Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, reported that she's bowing out, too.

In addition to that trio, Gwinnett will see two other GOP lawmakers leave this year, but in pursuit of higher office. State Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, is running for lieutenant governor, and state Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, is a candidate for Georgia secretary of state.

Take the show on the road? A note to the Georgia Senate: Hollywood is watching.

It would like to see Senate Bill 375 end up on the cutting-room floor. The "religious liberty" bill would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse on religious grounds to place children with gay couples.

That has caused at least some in the entertainment industry to think about taking their work elsewhere.

“To my fellow showrunners: if this dumb bill becomes law, let’s be done filming television shows in Georgia,” Ben Wexler, the producer of “The Michael J. Fox Show,” “Community” and other television programs, said in a tweet.

That’s not an idle threat.

The state Department of Economic Development reports that the film and television industry, drawn to Georgia by generous tax credits, spent a record $2.7 billion in the state by the end of fiscal 2017.

Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

— Democrat Bobby Kaple picked up a number of endorsements this past week as he campaigns in the 6th Congressional District race. First, Richard Keatley, who ran in last year's special election in the district, backed Kaple, a former TV news anchor. Kaple then announced that he had the support of several of the more prominent Democrats in the state: former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, ex-U.S. Rep. Buddy Darden, state Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson and state Sen. Elena Parent.

— Former Georgia U.S. Rep. Mac Collins has endorsed Shafer in his bid for lieutenant governor. Shafer's doing well with former Republican congressmen. Five others have also backed his campaign: Bob Barr, Ben Blackburn, Newt Gingrich, John Linder and Fletcher Thompson.

— State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, has a pair of prominent Democrats backing his re-election. Former DeKalb County CEO Liane Levetan and the current CEO, Michael Thurmond," are both listed as supporters in one of the senator's press releases. Millar has drawn a Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Sally Harrell.

— Democrat Jon Ossoff decided not to run again this year for Congress, but he's staying active in politics. He endorsed Lucy McBath's campaign for the Marietta-based state House seat held by Republican state Rep. Sam Teasley. It could be an interesting contest. The district's voters backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.


Capitol Recap

Here's a look at some of the news that broke this past week at Georgia's General Assembly, with a side of other political news. Find more by subscribing to Politically Georgia.