Governor’s Veto Locks In Legacy

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The Georgia General Assembly adjourned Sine Die the Thursday before Easter, after passing a controversial religious freedom bill the week before. It was a final week filled with threats of boycotts and political reprisals. After a brief break for Easter weekend, the Governor emerged last Monday with a veto.

It was not an easy decision for the lifelong Georgia Baptist. He’s been a deacon in his church and for many years wore political titles with that of “Sunday School teacher”. He remains in the same bible study group that he’s been a member of for decades. He does not exactly have a profile that is hostile to religion. Quite the contrary. His private life record is one of leadership in one of Christianity’s most conservative denominations.

The public record of Nathan Deal is one of goal oriented pragmatism. Though campaign rhetoric has often included traditional red meat conservatism, his term plus a half as Governor has been one of building coalitions to tackle specific agenda items. His legacy will be of one who reinvented Georgia’s economic base following the financial collapse of 2008 while reforming areas of government such as criminal justice and education with results oriented metrics.

The now vetoed House Bill 757 put Deal, like many Georgians, somewhat at odds between their private beliefs and economic interests. For the Governor, the bill also threatened several key areas that are currently policy successes.

A Governor who has often eschewed short term perception in favor of longer term accomplishments was forced to decide between warring factions. Each was more than willing to hold Georgia’s business community and economy hostage. Both seemed to have itchy trigger fingers. Governor Deal, with his signature or veto, was asked to decide the fate Solomon’s baby which was presented to him in the form of his own legacy.

When Governor Deal assumed office Georgia’s tax revenues were declining. The financial collapse closed one quarter of Georgia’s banks. Georgia’s population growth plateaued with spiraling unemployment numbers, and the growth industries of real estate, construction, and others took major steps backwards. Georgia had to rethink its approach to economic growth.

Instead of waiting for traditional industries to return to normal, the Governor sought some new paths for Georgia. He and his office of Economic Development have been one of the greatest champions of Georgia’s film tax credit. Georgia is now third in U.S. film production, and is adding physical infrastructure to continue to expand the industry.

Pinewood Studios now stands on what was Fayette County farmland. Tyler Perry is repurposing most of Ft McPherson for film and TV production. Shannon Mall has been razed to make way for a studio. Much of an old Lucent/OFS plant in Gwinnett County is being converted to indoor sound stages. Other projects stretch from the Atlanta exurbs to Savannah.

The program is more than film tax credits and in order to have a lasting effect, must incorporate Georgians into the employment base of the industry. Thus Governor Deal has created a program that pays the tuition for those seeking degrees in high demand fields for Georgia employers.

That same program also targets several fields in information technology and the emerging Finance Technology, or FinTech area. Georgia companies now process over 70% of all U.S. credit card transactions. Many other high tech and bio science companies have relocated to be near Georgia Tech. Baxter/Baxalta has opened with close proximity to UGA and its bioscience center.

But luring creative and high tech companies and their employees from Hollywood and Silicon Valley requires more than low costs of living and a competitive business climate. It also requires an environment where the employees will feel they are welcome. The campaign against HB 757 made southern hospitality seem anything but hospitable. Rhetoric from some of the bill’s supporters made Georgia’s welcome mat appear to apply to a select few.

In his statement announcing his veto, Governor Deal outlined the concerns on both sides, then systematically noted that the bill he was presented did not match or address the concerns raised by those who supported the bill. In effect, the bill would have changed little that is not already covered under the US Constitution or Federal Law.

He stated “I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith based community in Georgia of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives,”. With a nod to the implications on areas he’s seen critical progress he noted “Our actions on House Bill 757 are not just about protecting the faith based community. or providing a business friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. I believe it is about the character of our state and the character of our people.”

Governor Deal is term limited and thus will not have to face the voters again. His only burden in deciding the fate of HB 757, like all other legislation that reaches his desk, is to do what is best for the people of Georgia – All the people of Georgia.

The cost to the Governor may be some short term capital within the legislature or even a few more items on his agenda during the next legislative session. The longer term effect, however, will be that the policies he has enacted to date will continue to bear fruit well into the future and that Georgia, and her economy, will continue to grow and thrive.

These are the things that legacies are made of. Governor Deal secured much of his with the veto of HB 757.

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Davo65
Davo65

The Governor knows which side his bread is buttered on; just like you, Charlie.

George Chidi
George Chidi

And you would know bread, right?

John Konop
John Konop

Davo,

All of our bread is “buttered” by economics. Senator McKoon promoting RFRA bill with hate groups, like International House of Prayer is unethical as well as bad for business.

George Chidi
George Chidi

Lots of folks have been scratching their heads, trying to understand what North Carolina had to gain for Republicans by passing the kind of draconian anti-LGBT legislation it did a couple of weeks ago. North Carolina just surrendered its film industry, much of its technology development plan and possibly a major section of its financial services industry with this move. And they surrendered it … to us. Deal’s veto means Georgia can steal some business. The Atlanta City Council just asked the NBA to move the All-Star game here from Charlotte, and they weren’t really joking. Why would North Carolina… Read more »

blakeage80
blakeage80

So in the first paragraph, it’s a smart business decision by Deal. In the last it’s “an expression of his sincere views”. In-between, anybody who signed a bill with which you disagreed was motivated purely by a presidential election? You don’t think there are people honestly trying to closely guard religious liberty and the concepts surrounding human biology? Even if you disagree with the premise of bills such as HB757, to imply that no one could legitimately be trying to do the right thing is pretty extreme.

LTWill
LTWill

What do you mean by “concepts of human biology?”

I agree that bills like HB757 are completely about political posturing. From my understanding, the bill wasn’t strong enough to affect much change but was just strong enough to prove a point. Plenty of people believed that this bill was “the right thing.” Its just that those people seemed more inclined to scare people and win political points.

blakeage80
blakeage80

These recent bills, such as HB757, in various states deal with one or both of the following major issues:
1. Religious liberty: which boils down to, at this point, not only churches and religious organizations freely practicing the tenets of their faith, but religious business owners as well.
2. Transgender issues: which boil down to, at this point, what rules need to be in place where privacy is paramount. (bathrooms, locker rooms) What will be more closely guarded? Natural, human biology or the exceptional identity that diverges from it?

LTWill
LTWill

The problem with these Religious Liberty bills is that the term “Religious Liberty” has become synonymous with discrimination. Most people (and most businesses) don’t want to be associated with discriminatory practices.

That’s why religious liberty supporters are having an easier time rolling back transgender rights’ laws. They have framed that debate around “privacy” or “safety.” The sentiment is the same but the rhetoric is different.

blakeage80
blakeage80

I think the vocabulary is more an issue with a lot of people’s need to put everything in some category for easy consumption/understanding instead of being able to assess a bill by it’s words and effects. I would bet most of the arguments about HB757 are between parties that have never actually read the bill, (this great forum excluded 🙂 ) but were only exposed to others’ thoughts about the bill.

Any cause out there has to overcome the vocabulary battle.

Robbie
Robbie

See, transgender people fit into “natural, human biology.” They exist. They’re real. They’re not lying and they’re not trying to trick you. The sooner the Fundamentalist Right understands that, the simpler everything will be.

Benevolus
Benevolus

I second that.

And just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you need to try to legislate it away. I don’t like the way a lot of foreigners have a different concept of “personal space”, but I don’t need a law to help me deal with it.

blakeage80
blakeage80

Maintaining personal space on a train or in a grocery store line is not the same as maintaining the privacy society has traditionally afforded us in places where we are vulnerable such as the bathroom or locker room.

Benevolus
Benevolus

You are not any more vulnerable in a bathroom with transgender people than you are otherwise. You just feel more uncomfortable.

There are a lot of things we have done “traditionally” that we shouldn’t continue to do.

If Mayberry ever gets a transgender person it will give them a lot to talk about at the barber shop.

blakeage80
blakeage80

Isn’t that what started this whole thing? Transgender people feel uncomfortable?

NoParty4Me
NoParty4Me

Religious protections are in place to freely practice. What is not needed is a legislative right to discriminate in the secular world simply because one person perceives, rightly or wrongly, that another person is living a lifetsyle contrary to the discriminators belief. Gov. Deal made it a point to state there are no cases in Georgia where people are suing each other over various scenarios. I think most people are adult enough to respect differences and survive in public and work environments without having a mental meltdown or crisis of faith so egregious it need resolution by legal action. Some… Read more »

TheManUndertheBridge
TheManUndertheBridge

If ‘doing the right thing’ was the prima mobilia behind HB757, the Senate version ended that vision. Had HB 757 supporters stuck closely to the legal language of the Federal law, Governor Deal stated he would strongly consider supporting a Bill, over a year ago. But, noooooooo, Faith and Freedom, and other groups inserted their venom and now the matter lies unfinished in the minds of many so we can waste more time on this, next year. Frankly, it is very disheartening to see this great State mired in GOP philosophical wrangling and the division it causes within the GOP,… Read more »

George Chidi
George Chidi

I think there are religious zealots hoping to put a speed bump onto the road toward social progress. Sure. Some legislators sincerely believe that telling people they can hang a “Gays Aren’t Served Here” sign without legal repercussions is good government. The folks who see the world like this, by and large, go through their legislative careers like Michele Bachmann, throwing tantrums from the back bench. Real leaders keep them away from hard corners on the dining room table and the cabinet with the good china in it. That they have been temporarily empowered is a sign of how desperate… Read more »

blakeage80
blakeage80

George, talking only of the extremes and implying that people fighting for this protection are angry children are not two of your more well reasoned arguments and tells me you are more emotional about this issue than reasonable.

augusta52
augusta52

Yes George, it is always “religious zealots” when it comes to Christians who have held beliefs going back to the time of Christ and the early church, things like marriage is a man and a woman and abortion on demand is wrong. Yep, real radical things. views held by the largest denominations in the world, the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, and many Protestant fundamentalist Christians. Notice that the denominations which have become most supportive of the far-left social agenda have lost the most members over the last 50 years? Think, like Episcopalians and Presbyterians and the United Methodists?

Benevolus
Benevolus

Holding those beliefs is one thing, trying to get them codified into secular law is probably where the zealotry comes in.

Davo65
Davo65

You and Charlie both want to sell us on what a hard, ethical decision this was for our principled, ethical Governor…BS. He played rope-a-dope with the legislature and voters from the beginning. Any true expression of how divisive and repugnant (and bad for business) this issue is could have been forwarded from day one. That would have saved an awful lot of time…time to do real work for Georgians instead of this exercise in futility. Maybe that was the ‘Deal’ all along…distraction; bait and switch, eventually siding with big business…you know; republican strategy.

George Chidi
George Chidi

Do you not think the legislature heard long and loud — and early — how repugnant an assault on LGBT rights would be? That message came through quite clearly. It was simply ignored.

augusta52
augusta52

No such thing as left-wing lunatics, right, George?

Incidentally, the Catholic bishops of North Carolina (Charlotte and Raliegh) asked the state’s governor to overturn the transgender bathroom ordinance. They noted there was no exception for religious institutions. Shows the culture war is not just limited to DC—or activist jduges up there.

John Konop
John Konop

aug52,

Does it not bother you that this movement for RFRA is being promoted by leaders who have KKK style views? Should not Sen. McKoon denounce the groups he promotes the RFRA bill with in public meeting together, that supports geocoding gays , and spews out that 6 million Jews were murdered because they would not convert to Christianity?

George Chidi
George Chidi

There are plenty of left wing lunatics. I know many. I’m friends with some.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

I like to call them firedoglake liberals…like Susan Sarandon

gcp
gcp

Deal may have been a deacon in his church but his ethics have always been questionable.

John Konop
John Konop

gcp,

You are a very smart person, why are you not questioning the ethics of Sen McKoon?

gcp
gcp

I equate ethics with personal enrichment and personal behavior. Deal left congress with a pending ethics investigation. The allegation was that he tried to influence revenue dept. to keep a monopoly salvage title business at his junkyard. He personally benefited from this arrangement. Later his appointed rep may have used her influence on the state level to minimize the state investigation. Additionally, in 2015 $92,00 in taxpayer money was used to pave a road to his Habersham County home. There are other incidents of Deal’s personal behavior which benefited him, his friends or family members. Mckoon, as far as I… Read more »

John Konop
John Konop

…….. Mckoon, as far as I know, did not receive anything of value for his support of HB 757……

It does not bother you Sen. McKoon is promoting the RFRA bill with KKK style religious groups?

gcp
gcp

I support a bill based on my assessment of the bill. I don’t care who else supports it, does not support it or who promotes the bill.

John Konop
John Konop

gcp,

I have known you for a long time, you are very smart, do not buy you do not see the problem.

Noway2016
Noway2016

Pardon me for not being better informed on this issue. Let me ask what I hope is not a dumb question. Is most of the dust up in NC because they are making restrooms open to basically whatever sex or sexual identification of whoever wants to use them at any given time? If this is simplistic, again I apologise. Can someone help me here?

Benevolus
Benevolus

I don’t know the answer to your question, but I think the whole thing is kind of odd because which rest room you use is kind of a voluntary thing anyway, isn’t it? How do you even enforce it? “You’re being cited for using the wrong restroom. Can you show me your genitals?” “OK but can I finish up here first?” I’ve been lots of places where both genders share restrooms whether due to overcrowding or just because that’s the way it’s set up. It doesn’t seem to encourage any kind of strange behavior. If someone is uncomfortable in a… Read more »

Noway2016
Noway2016

But, B, is the trouble in NC because they have said that you should use the restroom that corresponds to whatever sex is on your birth certificate? Is that why they are getting their chops busted?

Benevolus
Benevolus

I believe that is the issue.

Noway2016
Noway2016

So those that favor the “use any bathroom any time” rule would be ok with a man following a good looking woman into the ladies room to get the chance to see her semi naked? That would be ok? Because at that time he could say if challenged, “I identify as a woman…” No harm, no foul?? That would be perv heaven. And people are actually boycotting NC because of this?