Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

The 'religious liberty' bill and state-sanctioned secrecy


Gov. Nathan Deal has a 10 a.m. press conference on his calendar. Chances are good that it’s about HB 757, the “religious liberty” bill.

No doubt, by now you’ve heard about that email from Chris Riley, chief of staff for the governor, to Spiro Amburn, top aide to House Speaker David Ralston,

“We received official notification this morning that Georgia was dropped from contention from two pending economic projects we had been working at gdec prior to any decision being made on the bill,” Riley wrote, referring to the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Both projects cited Hb 757 as why they were removing Georgia from consideration.”

The companies weren’t identified then, and they’re not identified now, prompting state senator and religious liberty supporter and state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, to send this note out via Twitter:

The answer is, yes, seriously. Over several years, the Legislature has made economic development a state secret, creating huge exceptions in the Open Records Act for firms being lured to the state by its Department of Economic Development.

To his credit, Senator McKoon voted against that one.

Other developments on the same topic: San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on Friday banned city employees from traveling to North Carolina on public business after the state passed a law limiting transgender rights. From the Washington Post:

Lee suggested that he would issue a similar travel ban to Georgia if it passes a religious liberty bill similar to an Indiana bill last year that elicited a similar travel ban: “With other states like Georgia on the verge of passing more discriminatory laws, let me be clear that San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in any City or State.”

You could say Hollywood is watching the fate of Georgia's "religious liberty" legislation with devout interest.

And California's KCRW featured the debate over the weekend in a show called "The Business" about the movie industry. Our AJC colleague Ariel Hart caught the show and sent over a dispatch. (The segment is at the 7:54 minute mark.)

The guest in the segment, the executive editor of the Hollywood Reporter, Matt Belloni, commented:

“This is a big deal.  Because Disney shoots the Marvel films there often, Captain America Civil War shot a lot there, AMC shoots the Walking Dead in Georgia; it has one of the more aggressive tax rebate plans for studios and it has managed to lure a lot of productions to the state. And if Disney, the mother of all studios, says it's not going to shoot their movies there, I think a lot of others will fall in line, and they could lose the entirety of that business that they really have fought a long time to get. So I think that is a significant amount of pressure on this governor.”

Over the weekend, Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, outlined why he's opposed to the "religious liberty" bill.

That led to this provocative response from state Sen. Josh McKoon, one of the most ardent champions of the measure:

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Last week, when Democratic-sponsored legislation to address the neglect of rape kits in Georgia hospitals appeared dead, comedian Samantha Bee, star of TBS’ “Full Frontal,” excoriated state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who balked at its passage.

Over the weekend, with the rape kit bill passed, Sam Bee sent this out via Twitter:

Never have we been happier to have our jokes become obsolete. Congrats, GA! https://t.co/M1PjcNwNbl

— Full Frontal (@FullFrontalSamB) March 25, 2016

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Over at the Saporta Report, Maria Saporta has a thorough obit on Hal Gulliver, former editor of the Atlanta Constitution editorial page, who died Thursday.

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We told you last week that President Barack Obama is headed to Atlanta on Tuesday. He'll be the headliner for a drug abuse summit aimed at developing new guidelines for prescribing pain medications and combating the new spike in heroin addiction.

The latter is already ringing alarm bells in metro Atlanta. In 2010, there were four heroin deaths in Fulton County. Last year, there were 104 deaths related to heroin and/or fentanyl. The majority were white males. Sixty-nine of the deaths were in Atlanta, but the rest were concentrated in north Fulton County.

Want some depressing reading? Here’s the report on the topic, released in January:

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.